Hamas split over unity pact with Fatah

West Bank leaders welcome deal, but Gaza members say it violates law.

February 9, 2012 19:51
2 minute read.
PA President Abbas, Hamas chief Mashaal in Qatar

PA President Abbas meets Hamas chief Mashaal in Qatar 390 R. (photo credit: REUTERS/Thaer Ghanaim/PPO/Handout)


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Divisions in Hamas over the Qatari-sponsored reconciliation agreement with Fatah deepened on Thursday as representatives of the Islamist group issued conflicting statements in response to the deal.

A day after Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip issued a statement rejecting the agreement signed in Doha earlier this week between the movement’s leader Khaled Mashaal and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas representatives in the West Bank issued a statement in support of the accord.

The unprecedented public split in Hamas came amid reports that Mashaal had decided to settle in Qatar after he and most of the movement’s leaders were forced to leave Syria.

On Wednesday, Hamas’s Change and Reform List in the Gaza Strip criticized the reconciliation pact, dubbed the Doha Declaration, saying it violated the Palestinian Basic Law.

The list issued a statement, saying that after consulting with legal experts and conducting a thorough examination of the accord, it had concluded that Abbas’s appointment as prime minister of a unity government was in violation of the Basic Law.

Members of the Hamas list in the Gaza Strip – which consists of many of the movement’s prominent leaders and legislators – called on the two parties to abide by the Palestinian Basic Law and reconsider the agreement.

The legal department of the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council also rejected the Qatari-engineered agreement as “unconstitutional.”

According to the Palestinian Basic Law, the department said, Abbas could not hold the two positions of PA president and PA prime minister simultaneously. The department pointed out that the legislature had amended the Basic Law in 2003 to prevent a situation in which the president also serves as prime minister.

However, Ismail Radwan, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, defended the idea of appointing Abbas as prime minister and said the move was primarily designed to end the power struggle with Fatah.

“This is not about choosing Abbas [as prime minister] or forming a unity government as much as it is about ending the state of division [between Hamas and Fatah],” Radwan said.

He also ruled out the possibility that elections would be held in the Palestinian territories in May.

But while most of Gaza’s Hamas leadership came out against the reconciliation accord, the movement’s West Bank representatives welcomed the agreement.

Riad al-Amleh, a Hamas legislator in the West Bank, said on Thursday that although the Qatari-brokered agreement was in violation of the Palestinian constitution, the top priority should be to end the dispute with Fatah.

Fathi Qarawi, another Hamas legislator, expressed hope that the agreement would put an end to divisions among Palestinians.

He said that despite the opposition in Hamas over the agreement, the movement was not facing a split.

Palestinian political analysts said that with the apparent split, it would be impossible to implement the agreement between Abbas and Mashaal.

Meanwhile, the London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper reported on Thursday that the Hamas leadership had decided to leave Syria permanently in light of the growing anarchy there. The paper said Hamas leaders no longer felt safe as the violence spread to Damascus.

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