Yahya Sinwar arrives at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza on October 18, 2011, after being released by Israel as part of a prisoner swap for kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A confidant of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called a proposal by Hamas Gaza head Yahya Sinwar that the PLO should control all Palestinian weapons “important and positive,” suggesting that this may lead to a resolution of the contested issue of Hamas’s weapons.
“We will be dialoguing with Hamas about the issue of arms,” Ahmad Majdalani told The Jerusalem Post in a phone interview on Wednesday, referring to talks scheduled to take place in Cairo late next month. “We believe Sinwar’s statement is an important and positive step in the direction of accepting one authority and one weapon in Gaza.”
The comments by Majdalani and Sinwar come some two weeks after Hamas and Fatah signed an Egyptian-brokered agreement to advance Palestinian reconciliation efforts and restore the Ramallah- based PA’s governing authority in Gaza.
However, the issue of Hamas’s weapons has remained a point of contention between the two parties; Hamas officials have said they will not give up their weapons, while Fatah officials have stated the PA should control all weapons.
According to Majdalani, Sinwar’s statement suggested that the PA would ultimately take hold of all weapons in Gaza.
“There is no difference between the PLO and PA,” Majdalani said on Wednesday.
“The PA is an extension of the PLO.”
Sinwar told a group of Palestinian union leaders on Tuesday that although the Palestinians cannot give up their weapons, the PLO should take hold of them.
“We, as a people, are still in the stage of national liberation. We cannot forgo our weapons... [But] our weapons certainly should be under a unifying national umbrella in which every Palestinian participates.
That umbrella is the Palestine Liberation Organization,” he said.
Before the signing of the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s, the PLO maintained an army, but it is not active today.
Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, and smaller terrorist groups in Gaza have tens of thousands of members who possess thousands of guns, rockets and other weapons.
The PLO negotiated the Oslo Accords that created the PA, the internationally recognized Palestinian body that was established to govern the Palestinian territories.
Although the two organizations work in tandem on a number of issues such as foreign affairs, they are generally considered to be separate bodies.
Nonetheless, it is not clear if Sinwar’s remarks on Tuesday actually indicate a shift in Hamas’s position.
Sinwar did not clarify under which conditions the PLO should control Palestinians’ weapons. For example, he did not say whether Hamas would condition PLO control of Palestinians’ weapons on the organization adopting a strategy of armed conflict with Israel or rescinding its recognition of Israel.
The PLO currently recognizes Israel and is committed to achieving a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through peaceful means – both positions that Hamas has repeatedly rejected.
Hamas is also not a member of the PLO. While the upcoming talks in Cairo are supposed to discuss Hamas's possible inclusion in the body, Palestinian officials in Ramallah have demanded Hamas commit to abide by the PLO's positions--including those related to Israel--before joining the organization.
Over the past few weeks, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who also serves as PLO chairman and Fatah chief, has demanded that the PA be the only body to control weapons in the Palestinian territories.
“There must be one authority, one law and one gun, and there shouldn’t be militias,” Abbas said in an interview published Tuesday in Xinhua, a Chinese news outlet.
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