Of course, Hamas has always maintained leadership abroad. The movement is deliberately decentralized to ensure that Israel cannot decapitate its top
leaders in one blow. But since the exodus from Damascus, its structure looks more like a diplomatic corps.
Meshal's leadership throughout all of this has been tenuous. In recent years, numerous
reports have suggested he was prepared to step down
. After all, he was responsible for managing ties with the Iranians and Syrians, and those ties had gone sour. But by April, the journeyman Hamas leader
appeared to have found job stability in Doha, thanks to the movement's new financial lifeline there. He was reelected in April 2013 as politburo chief, but only after a protracted period of confusion surrounding the selection process, which reportedly
took place in multiple locations such as Turkey, Sudan, and Egypt, and were
postponed several times due to "technical issues."
Where Hamas is headed under Meshal's leadership is still unclear, however. He has repeatedly expressed his
desire to join the secular Palestine Liberation Organization
(PLO), which has long served as the political base for Hamas' domestic adversary, the Fatah faction. As Gaza-based political science professor Mkhaimar
Abusada notes, "Meshal understands that in order for Hamas to become a legitimate entity, it must be part of the PLO."
But it is entirely unclear how this this appeals to a majority of Hamas' stakeholders. Joining hands with the PLO is antithetical to the movement's
platform of resistance. After all, the PLO remains open to negotiations with Israel - something Hamas steadfastly rejects. Perhaps this is why, amidst the
divorce from Iran and Syria, his former patrons heaped scorn on Meshal, calling him a Zionist, for good
In the end, it appeared that Qatar had swayed the movement to maintain course with Meshal, which likely was more of a reflection on Qatar's financial
influence than Meshal's political clout.
Turkey, for its part, seems less concerned with influencing Hamas decision-making. Instead, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan has dedicated himself to breaking
Hamas out of its political and economic isolation, and does so with frequency on the world stage. The Turkish-sponsored flotilla of 2010, which was designed to break Israel's blockade
of Gaza but instead led to a conflict with Israeli commandos on the high seas, was a rather dramatic way of making his point. Erdoğan has since found less
disruptive ways of advocating for the Palestinian Islamist faction. For example, Erdoğan famously told an
American television audience last year, "I don't see Hamas as a terror organization. Hamas is a political party."
In December 2011, Erdoğan was said to have "instructed the Ministry of Finance to allocate $300 million to
be sent to Hamas' government in Gaza." Both Turkey and Hamas
this, but Reuters and the Israeli Haaretz, published
subsequent reports citing this financial relationship. Turkey, meanwhile, has undeniably bankrolled hospitals,mosques, and schools in Hamas-controlled Gaza, with additional funds intended to help Hamas rebuild
its territory after the November 2012 war with Israel.