After Schalit deal, Zahar challenges Abbas to elections

Senior Hamas official invites Abbas to "measure his popularity in the Palestinian street"; Zahar insists he wants Hamas-Fatah reconciliation.

Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar challenged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to test his popularity in elections following the deal that Hamas signed with Israel releasing over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, Gaza daily Al Resalah reported Wednesday.
"We invite Abu Mazen [Abbas] to enter into elections to see the extent of his popularity in the Palestinian street," Al Resalah quoted Zahar as saying.
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Zahar rejected criticism that the Schalit deal may have undermined the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, which Abbas has said he pursued in order to pave the way for national elections.
"Abbas disrupted the reconciliation under US pressure for the benefit of [the UN statehood bid in] September," Zahar said.
Zahar encouraged a resumption of the reconciliation agreement, urging Abbas away from his bid for statehood at the United Nations on the basis of a two-state solution with Israel.
"We will not sell the right of future generations," Zahar said, warning against giving up the right-of-return of Palestinian refugees in a two-state solution. Hamas was consistently critical of the PA's UN bid, fearing the legal implications it would have for Palestinian refugees.
Last Sunday, Zahar claimed Abbas would not have been able to bring about a release of Palestinian prisoners such as Hamas achieved in the Schalit deal.
"Abu Mazen [Abbas] was negotiating a million years and has not achieved such a deal, and he demanded that they [the prisoners] be released without offering anything in return," Zahar said during an interview with Army Radio.
Zahar's comments underline the widely held perception that the Schalit deal was a political victory for Hamas.