'We'll join PLO to keep it true to its mission'
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Senior Hamas official: "Anyone who thinks Hamas has changed its positions is living in an illusion."
Hamas is joining the PLO not as a result of a change in its ideology but because
it wants the PLO to stick to its original platform – liberating Palestine and
achieving the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, Hamas leaders
explained over the weekend.
The Hamas leaders’ clarifications came in
response to claims that Hamas’s decision to join the PLO was a sign the Islamist
movement was moving toward moderation and would abandon its radical
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Analysis: Palestinian rivals united by drift
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other radical Palestinian groups
agreed on Thursday to join a provisional leadership of the PLO that would look
into ways of “activating and reconstructing” the Fatah-dominated
The decision was announced following a meeting of
representatives of several Palestinian groups in Cairo.
Hamas and Islamic
Jihad are demanding the PLO reconsider its political strategy by scrapping the
Oslo Accords and its recognition of the two-state solution.
“foreign minister” Osama Hamdan, said the decision to join the temporary PLO
leadership did not mean Hamas would become part of the peace process with
“Anyone who thinks Hamas has changed its positions and now
accepts the PLO’s defeatist political program is living in an illusion,” Hamdan
stressed. “Hamas cannot make the mistake of joining a process that has
proved to be a failed one over the past 20 years.”
He was quoted by the
Quds Press news agency as saying Hamas’s decision to be part of a provisional
PLO leadership was aimed at “reconstructing the organization and reconsidering
its political program.”
Hamdan emphasized that Hamas remains committed to
fulfilling the aspirations of Palestinians, “first and foremost the liberation
of our lands from the sea to the river and achieving the right of
The Hamas leader said those who believe the Palestinians could
continue to pursue the PLO’s “failed” political program over the past two
decades are deluding themselves.
By seeking reconciliation with Fatah,
Hamas hopes to achieve the Palestinians’ goal of liberating all their lands and
securing the return of the refugees to their original homes inside Israel,
He said the reconciliation process with Fatah was moving
slowly and facing many obstacles, such as continued security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel in the West
Hamdan also denied that his movement had left Syria.
Hamas offices and headquarters are still in Damascus,” he said.
Hamas leader, Khalil Abu Leila, said his movement would not join the PLO under
the latter’s current political program.
One of the main tasks of the
provisional PLO leadership was to “bring the PLO back to its correct path and
the goal for which it was established, namely the liberation of Palestine,” he
Abu Leila said Hamas had long been demanding the PLO be
“reactivated” and reconsider all agreements signed by the
organization. His remark was seen as a reference to the Oslo Accords,
which were signed between the PLO and Israel in 1993.
“All peoples are
entitled to reconsider agreements signed by their governments,” Abu Leila said.
“This is what just happened with Turkey, which decided to cancel many agreements
with France over the Armenian issue.”
He also cautioned against
“excessive optimism” regarding the prospects of ending the dispute between Hamas
and Fatah, saying one should first wait to see tangible results on the
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said “activating and reconstructing”
the PLO meant electing new bodies for the organization, such as the Palestine
National Council, the parliament-in-exile, and the Executive Committee. After
the elections, the newly elected PLO leaders would begin discussions on the
organization’s political program, he added.
“This is not about one party
joining another,” Mashaal said. “We are working toward unifying the institutions
of the Palestinian Authority and ending the division on the ground and in the
political arena. This is what the reconciliation pact [that was reached
in Cairo last May] calls for.
“It also envisages reforming and activating
the PLO by holding new elections for the Palestine national Council and
Mashaal said that from now on no Palestinian party
would have a monopoly over the political decision- making process or managing
the PA and PLO institutions.
Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ramadan
Shallah also denied the decision to join the provisional PLO leadership was an
indication his group would abandon its ideology.
“We still haven’t joined
the PLO,” he said. “In future discussions with other factions, we will talk
about incorporating Islamic Jihad into the PLO. Thursday’s meeting was just the
beginning of this process.”
Shallah told London-based Al- Hayat newspaper
it has already been made clear no organization would be asked to abandon its
program as a condition for joining the PLO.
On the other hand, he added,
no group has been asked to accept the PLO’s political platform as a condition
for joining the organization.
“In principle, there is a Palestinian
consensus that the PLO is an address for all Palestinians,” Shallah
said. “We are seeking to make this an appropriate address.”
said that during last week’s discussions in Cairo, PLO and PA leader Mahmoud
Abbas made it clear the Palestinians would still preserve the right to “armed
resistance” against Israel, despite the talk about the need for a “popular
“No one has the right to say armed resistance is illegitimate
and the Palestinians cannot resort to it,” Shallah said.