Khaled Meshaal is the former chief of Hamas’s political bureau. He stepped down after two terms in that position following the May 6, 2017, election of deputy Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.“Ismail Haniyeh elected new political head of Hamas,” Times of Israel, May 6, 2017, http://www.timesofisrael.com/ismail-haniyeh-elected-new-head-of-hamas/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=0dd24464cd-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_05_05&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-0dd24464cd-55118405. Meshaal assumed leadership of the political bureau in 2004 following the assassinations of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin and his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi. During his 13 years of leadership, Meshaal oversaw Hamas’s transition from a purely terrorist organization into a terrorist/political hybrid.“Khaled Meshaal Fast Facts,” CNN, October 9, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/09/world/meast/khaled-meshaal-fast-facts/index.html.
Despite Hamas’s control of Gaza, Meshaal has never lived there. He resides in Qatar, from where he acted as the public face of Hamas for more than a decade. Reports in January 2015 speculated that Qatar would expel Meshaal and other Hamas leaders as part of a plan to align with its regional allies in the fight against terrorism.“Report: Qatar to banish Hamas’ Meshaal, who will relocate to Turkey,” Jerusalem Post, January 6, 2015, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Report-Qatar-to-banish-Hamas-political-bureau-chief-Mashaal-who-will-relocate-to-Turkey-386808. Qatar denied the reports and Qatar’s top diplomat called Meshaal a “dear guest” in his country.Abdullah Rebhy, “Qatar denies it plans to expel Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal,” Associated Press, January 12, 2015, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/04fc2928f3e04a77a1fdd45c24085397/qatar-denies-it-plans-expel-hamas-leader-khaled-mashaal.
Reports emerged in March 2016 that Meshaal was struggling to maintain power. According to Israeli analysts, Meshaal faced a challenge to his authority from Yahya Sinwar, a co-founder of Hamas’s Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades who had reportedly orchestrated power shifts within the Gaza-based Hamas leadership. Sinwar has advocated closer ties with Iran, which has continued funding the al-Qassam Brigades while cutting funding to Hamas as a whole. Meshaal, however, tried to align the organization with Saudi Arabia and Egypt.Avi Issacharoff, “Inside Hamas, a bitter and very personal battle for control,” Times of Israel, March 19, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/inside-hamas-a-bitter-and-very-personal-battle-for-control/;
Avi Issacharoff, “Rising new Hamas leader is all too familiar to Israel,” Times of Israel, December 18, 2015, http://www.timesofisrael.com/rising-new-hamas-leader-is-all-too-familiar-to-israel/.
On May 6, 2017, Hamas’s Shura Council elected Haniyeh to succeed Meshaal.“Ismail Haniyeh elected new political head of Hamas,” Times of Israel, May 6, 2017, http://www.timesofisrael.com/ismail-haniyeh-elected-new-head-of-hamas/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=0dd24464cd-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_05_05&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-0dd24464cd-55118405. As one of his last acts in office, Meshaal announced Hamas’s new political program at the Sheraton Hotel in Doha on May 1, 2017. Meshaal introduced the new political document as an updated guide to Hamas’s policies, though it did not replace the group’s 1988 charter. While the document accepts the idea of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines, Hamas withholds recognition of Israel and continues to embrace “armed resistance” against Israel in its pursuit of the “liberation” of Palestine “from the river to the sea.”“A Document of General Principles & Policies,” Hamas Media Office, accessed May 2, 2017, http://hamas.ps/ar/uploads/documents/06c77206ce934064ab5a901fa8bfef44.pdf;
“New Hamas policy document ‘aims to soften image,’” BBC News, May 1, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39744551.
In his farewell address, Meshaal said that Haniyeh and Hamas’s political bureau would continue to focus on the “key” issues of “liberation, Jerusalem, prisoners, right of refugees, lifting the siege imposed on Gaza, and achieving internal unity.”“Khalid Meshal's speech during the inauguration of the new head of Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniya ( an excerpt),” Hamas website, May 6, 2017, http://hamas.ps/en/post/694/khalid-meshal-s-speech-during-the-inauguration-of-the-new-head-of-hamas-political-bureau-ismail-haniya-(-an-excerpt).
Australia designated “Khaled Meshaal” on November 21, 2003.“Consolidated List,” Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, last updated September 12, 2017, http://dfat.gov.au/international-relations/security/sanctions/pages/consolidated-list.aspx#list.
The United Kingdom proscribed “Khalid Mishaal” on March 24, 2004.“Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions Targets in the UK,” U.K. Home Office, last updated September 12, 2017, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated “Khalid Mishaal” as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on August 22, 2003.“U.S. Designates Five Charities Funding Hamas and Six Senior Hamas Leaders as Terrorist Entities,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 22, 2003, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/js672.aspx.