Iran was largely uninvolved in the IsraeliPalestinian sphere this quarter. After an Islamic Jihad delegation’s visit to Tehran in 4/2016, Asharq Al Awsat reported (5/25) that Iran intended to resume supporting the group and end 2 years of strained relations. There were no follow-up reports this quarter indicating whether, or how, Iranian support for the group had resumed.
The growing regional rift between the Saudi-led Sunni axis, on the one hand, and Iran and its allies, on the other, put the Palestinians in an increasingly precarious position this quarter, placing a strain on their relationship with Tehran.
Early in the quarter, Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League targeted Iranian and Palestinian ally Hezbollah, designating it a terrorist organization (3/2 and 3/11, respectively). An Egyptian official clarified (3/6) that Cairo would bar entry to Hezbollah leaders, as well as to Palestinians from Gaza with connections to Hezbollah. In response, reps. of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the PA signed (3/8) a declaration in support of the Lebanese group, without, however, embracing Iranian policy. Earlier, Hamas had indicated (2/21) that it was ready for a reset in relations with Iran, and on 3/16 a Hamas source revealed that a delegation had met in secret with the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which had urged Hamas to stay neutral in the Iran-Saudi conflict. The Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership, meanwhile, had a more public spat with Iran. On 2/24, Iran’s amb. to Lebanon announced that Tehran planned to offer financial compensation to Palestinian victims of Israeli violence (the equivalent to $7,000 would go to families of Palestinians killed in the recent habba and some $30,000 to those whose homes had been punitively demolished (see “The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict” and “Occupation Data and Trends” above). While the Palestinians initially welcomed the announcement, an Iranian official’s statement (2/27) that experience had shown the PA not to be “reliable”—leading Tehran to decide that it would “send the money in its own way.” Bristling at the criticism, the PA accused Iran of interference in internal Palestinian affairs. The 2 incidents—unrequited outreach from Hamas and explicit disregard for the PA—left the Palestinian factions in limbo between Iran and Saudi Arabia.