Jerusalem, Jan. 29 – Hamas’ political head Khaled Mashaal visited Jordan on Sunday as he seemingly stepped up his bid to replace Mahmoud Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority.
It was Mashaal’s first visit to the Hashemite Kingdom in more than a decade. Jordanexpelled Hamas’ leaders in 1999 in part because of their efforts to undermine the peace agreement between Amman and Jerusalem.
Jordan is said to be considering re-establishing ties with Hamas, which is trained, armed and funded by Iran. Amman is watching the strengthening of Islamist political movements throughout the region and does not want to be isolated.
On the other hand, King Abdullah is aware that the United States and European Union have designated Hamas a terror organization. Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel and opposes any peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis.
There is speculation in the Palestinian areas that Mashaal is planning to run for the presidency if elections are held later this year. He fueled these rumors by announcing his resignation as political chief of Hamas.
Mashaal has spent much of the last month traveling the Muslim world in a bid to garner support. His destinations included Qatar, Egypt and Turkey.
There are reports that given the turmoil in Syria he will not return to the country and the organization may move its headquarters away from Damascus. Some journalists are suggesting Mashaal and his family intend settling in Jordan.