Abbas meets Mashaal in Cairo 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Al Hams/Handout)
The Hamas leadership appeared on Monday to be divided over Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas’s effort to ask the UN General Assembly to upgrade the
status of the Palestinian entity to nonmember observer state.
Abbas arrived in Jordan Monday, from where he is expected to head to New York to
file the request for upgrading the status to a Palestinian state.
leader Khaled Mashaal phoned Abbas to express his support for the statehood bid,
according to a statement the president’s office issued.
“welcomed” Abbas’s effort to upgrade the status of Palestine, the statement
added. The Hamas leader stressed that the statehood bid should be “in the
context of a national and strategic vision that preserves the national rights
and principles and is based on elements of power possessed by the Palestinians,
first and foremost the resistance.”
Mashaal also emphasized the need to
end the Hamas- Fatah rivalry in the wake of “our people’s victory in the Gaza
Strip” during Operation Pillar of Defense.
Ezat Risheq, a senior Hamas
official, explained that Mashaal supported the statehood bid on condition that
it did not include relinquishing or making concessions on “one inch of our
Palestinian land – from the sea to the river.”
Last week, Abbas’s office
announced that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had phoned the PA president
to “welcome” the UN bid. It also claimed Islamic Jihad had voiced support for the statehood bid, although this claim was later denied by
one of its officials in the Gaza Strip.
Taher a-Nunu, spokesman for the
Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, quickly denied
that Haniyeh had expressed
support for the statehood bid.
Azzam al-Ahmed, a top Fatah official in
the West Bank, praised Mashaal for supporting the statehood bid as a “step in
the right direction.”
But Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in the
Gaza Strip, mocked Abbas’s statehood bid. He told Palestinian reporters during a
meeting in Gaza City that Abbas was going to the UN to ask for a “rugged
Zahar also ridiculed Abbas for stating recently that Operation
Pillar of Defense was designed to thwart the statehood bid at the
“Abbas says he is responsible for all the Palestinians everywhere,”
“But I say that Abbas does not represent me and is not
responsible for me in anything.”
He revealed that he has asked the
prosecutor-general’s office to arrest Abbas when and if he visits the Gaza
Zahar said that he had filed a complaint for slander and libel
against Abbas over remarks the PA president made during Operation Cast Lead in
2008 and 2009.
Abbas was at the time quoted as saying that Zahar had fled
the Gaza Strip to Egypt out of fear for his life.
“When [Abbas] comes to
Gaza, I will ask the prosecutor- general to arrest him because he is a liar. He
is a president who lies. How can someone like him represent me?” the Hamas
Zahar’s remarks drew sharp criticism from Fatah officials
in the West Bank who accused him of seeking to damage renewed efforts to end the
dispute between the two parties.
Following the recent IDF offensive in
the Gaza Strip, both Hamas and Fatah have pledged to resume negotiations to end
their power struggle. Before leaving Ramallah, Abbas said that after the UN vote
he will work toward achieving reconciliation with Hamas
Ahmed Assaf called on the Hamas leadership to “rein in” Zahar and put an end to
his “shameful and strange” statements.
Assaf said that Zahar was “singing
out of tune” and trying to sabotage efforts to achieve reconciliation between
Fatah and Hamas.
The Fatah spokesman said that the “battle of going to
the UN was not a personal battle, but the battle of the entire Palestinian
This was not the first time that differences have erupted
between Mashaal and Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip. Earlier this year, Zahar
and other Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip criticized Mashaal for signing the
Doha Declaration to end the Hamas-Fatah dispute.
The agreement, which was
never implemented, called, among other things, for the establishment of a new
Palestinian government headed by Abbas as a first step toward ending the rivalry
between the two sides.
Zahar said then that it would be a mistake for
Abbas to head the Palestinian government.
He and other Hamas officials
complained that Mashaal had failed to consult with them before signing the
declaration with Abbas.