Fatah officials in the West Bank on Monday expressed deep concern over reports that Hamas and Israel are close to signing a long-term truce.
The officials warned that the agreement would pave the way for the establishment of a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.
The warning came amid reports that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair have reached understandings regarding the proposed truce. Unconfirmed reports have claimed that Hamas was ready to strike a deal with Israel in return for the creation of a sea passage between Cyprus and the Gaza Strip.
Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf said that the reports about an imminent agreement between Hamas and Israel mean the consolidation of the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“This would achieve Israel’s strategic goal of killing the idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital,” Assaf cautioned. “Hamas wants to win Israeli recognition at the cost of the Palestinian national project.”
Assaf said that Hamas was not entitled to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians. Therefore, he added, the results of any negotiations would not be binding to anyone, “especially since Hamas is turning a blind eye to the Palestinians’ national rights and principles.”
Assaf said that the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements with Israel allow Palestinians to have their own seaport in the Gaza Strip. He claimed that both Yasser Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, had rejected the Israeli plan to establish a sea passage to the Gaza Strip that would be under Israel’s security, political and economic control.
“Hamas has chosen its narrow interests and winning Israeli recognition at the expense of the higher interests of the Palestinians,” the Fatah spokesman charged. “Hamas’s goal is to rid itself of its crisis without caring about the Israeli scheme to liquidate the Palestinian cause and indefinitely delay the discussion over core issues such as Jerusalem, refugees and settlements.”
Assaf urged Palestinians to foil the “Hamas-Blair conspiracy to slice off the Gaza Strip and eliminate Palestinian rights.”
Another Fatah spokesman, Osama Qawassmeh, claimed that the purported understandings between Hamas and Blair were designed to lay the foundations for the creation of new “Village Leagues” with religious clothing.
Qawassmeh was referring to the pro-Israel Village Leagues that were established in the West Bank in 1980 in a bid to undermine the PLO’s influence.
He said that Hamas was now ready to accept a truce with Israel in return for an Israeli-controlled sea passage to the Gaza Strip.
Qawassmeh too claimed that Israel was seeking to cut off the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and eliminate the Palestinian issue.
In response, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh denied that his movement was seeking to create a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip. He told reports in Gaza City that Hamas’s strategy calls for the “liberation of all of Palestine from occupation.” He added: “Despite the pain, destruction and blockade, the Gaza Strip cannot give up Jerusalem and the Aqsa Mosque.”