'Boycott fueled Fatah-Hamas tensions'

PA official tells 'Post' Abbas, Haniyeh discussing ways to avoid new crisis.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The refusal of the international community to deal with the new Palestinian Authority "unity government" has resulted in renewed tensions between Fatah and Hamas, PA officials here said over the weekend. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas were scheduled to meet late Saturday to discuss ways of defusing the tensions and avoiding a new crisis between the two parties, the officials told The Jerusalem Post. Meanwhile, PA and Hamas officials rejected a US plan to ease Palestinian movement in the West Bank in return for Palestinian measures aimed at halting the firing of rockets on Israel from the Gaza Strip. "Tensions between Fatah and Hamas are very high," said a senior PA official. "The situation could deteriorate into violence at any moment." The official denied reports in the Arab media according to which Abbas had threatened to resign if the US and EU didn't lift financial sanctions imposed on the Palestinians after Hamas came to power in January 2006. Abbas, who returned recently from a tour of a number of EU countries, was quoted as telling his aides that he failed to make progress in persuading the international community to end the boycott of the new Hamas-led unity government. "The president is very disappointed," said another PA official. "But I'm not aware of any threat by him to resign." Haniyeh was quoted over the weekend as saying that the PA government might be forced to resign because of the continued sanctions. He also talked about the possibility of dissolving the PA in protest against the sanctions. Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a senior Abbas aide, said the current crisis in the PA was one of the worst [he had witnessed.] "The Palestinian cause is no longer receiving the same attention it used to receive by the world," he said. He expressed deep disappointment with the international community's stance toward the new Hamas-led coalition, warning that the PA's very existence was now at stake "because of the world's refusal to honor the democratic choice of the Palestinians." Fatah spokesman Jamal Nazzal rejected as "collective suicide" Haniyeh's talk about dismantling the PA, saying such a move would only serve Israel's interests. Israel, he claimed, has always "wanted to destroy the PA. That's why we find it strange that Hamas is now calling for the dismantlement of the PA. Hamas never accepted the establishment of the PA and considered it back then as a form of infidelity and treason," he said. Maher Mikdad, another Fatah spokesman, accused unnamed elements in Hamas of trying to torpedo efforts to achieve rapprochement between the two sides. "There are some in Hamas who are opposed to the Mecca unity agreement [between Fatah and Hamas] and don't want stability and peace between the two parties," he said. "These elements are responsible for the growing tensions and attempts to renew internal fighting." Commenting on the new US plan, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal told supporters in Damascus: "I officially declare Hamas's rejection of this document or any American, European, Israeli or even Arab project that diminishes the Palestinian cause like this. It is a formula of lifting the roadblocks in return for halting the resistance." Mashaal expressed regret over the fact that some Palestinian officials had welcomed the plan. "The Zionist and American schemes to trigger Palestinian civil war will fail," he added. "Those who are bidding on an internal Palestinian explosion are living in an illusion. The only explosion will be in the face of the Zionists." Mashaal said the "resistance" was the only way to achieve Palestinian rights. "We have tried the option of a peaceful settlement and we failed," he noted. "And we have tried the option of resistance and won. We managed to drive the Zionists out of the Gaza Strip and the Lebanese resistance succeeded in defeating Israel," Mashaal said. In Gaza City, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum condemned the plan as an attempt to turn the Palestinian issue into a humanitarian case, rather than a political cause. He also rejected attempts to resume security coordination between the Palestinians and Israel. PA Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti (independent) also rejected the US plan, saying neither the Americans nor the Israelis were interested in the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. He added that Israel and the US were trying to divert attention from their successive failures in Lebanon and Iraq by raising new initiatives. "The plan does not talk about ending the boycott [of the PA government] or removing all the checkpoints," he said. "Instead, it only talks about reducing the number of the checkpoints. Today, we have 530 permanent Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank."