Mixed reactions from Hamas to Abbas's UN bid

Hamas spokesman says group backs any political gain Abbas can achieve at UN as long as it doesn't include relinquishing land.

November 26, 2012 20:18
3 minute read.
Abbas and Mashaal meet in Cairo to talk unity

Abbas meets Mashaal in Cairo 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Al Hams/Handout)


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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.

Meanwhile, 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.

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Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal phoned Abbas to express his support for the statehood bid, according to a statement the president’s office issued.

Mashaal “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 state.”

Zahar also ridiculed Abbas for stating recently that Operation Pillar of Defense was designed to thwart the statehood bid at the UN.

“Abbas says he is responsible for all the Palestinians everywhere,” Zahar said.

“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 Strip.

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 leader added.

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.

Fatah spokesman 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 people.”

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.

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