The Islamist group Hamas said on Monday it was backing Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas's attempt to win more clout for Palestinians at the
United Nations, the latest sign of a rapprochement between the political
The Palestinians are registered as an observer entity at the UN
and Abbas wants to see them upgraded to a "non-member state" in a UN General
Assembly vote on November 29, giving him access to other international organizations.
The decision by Hamas was unexpected. It does not recognize Israel's right to exist and has dismissed previous attempts by Abbas
to promote the Palestinian cause on the diplomatic stage.
sway in the West Bank. Hamas governs the Gaza Strip and has just fought
a fierce, eight-day conflict with Israel.
After more than five years of
deep divisions, the two main political forces in the Palestinian territories
have shown signs this past week they were ready to resume unity talks -- driven
closer together by the Israeli assault on Gaza.
Israel launched its
offensive to halt rocket fire out of the coastal enclave into its southern towns
and cities. Abbas denounced the Israeli assault and dispatched a top official to
Gaza in a show of solidarity with Gaza.
Once the fighting subsided, the
rival factions announced they would release their respective political
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group
backed any political gain Abbas could achieve at the United Nations "without
causing any harm to the national Palestinian rights".
chief Khaled Mashaal, who lives in exile, told Abbas by telephone of his
movement's change of heart, Hamas said in a statement.
Direct peace talks
between Israel and Abbas broke down in 2010 over the question of Israeli
settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem -- land the Palestinians
want for their future state.
Hamas might struggle to explain its new
position to some of its hardline supporters. As recently as Saturday, senior
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar had urged Abbas not to go to New
Abbas's UN initiative "represents an ... official concession of
the 1948 land," Zahar told reporters, referring to the year Israel proclaimed
its independence following the end of British rule in the region.
Hamas leaders accept the notion of a Palestinian state along lines established
before the 1967 Middle East War, they say this should only be a transitional
solution ahead of the eventual creation of a nation on the basis of 1948
Abbas has said he supports a two-state solution on the basis
of the 1967 lines.
In his conversation with Abbas, Mashaal stressed the
need for reconciliation between the two factions, especially in the wake of the
Israeli offensive, which was ended thanks to a ceasefire deal brokered by
"This signals that Hamas is showing greater flexibility towards
reconciliation than any time before," said Gaza political analyst Hani
Speaking to hundreds of supporters in the West Bank city of
Ramallah on Sunday, Abbas vowed he would speed up unity efforts after he returns
from the UN vote.