Fatah lax on Hamas recognizing Israel

Hamas minister accuses Abbas of "confiscating" $35 million to pay loyalists.

Abbas haniyeh 298 (photo credit: AP [file])
Abbas haniyeh 298
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party is ready to join the Hamas government even if Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist, Fatah officials said on Thursday. Meanwhile, a Hamas minister accused Abbas of "confiscating" more than $35 million to pay his loyalists and supporters. Minister of Culture Attallah Abu Sabah said the money had been collected by the government to pay the salaries of civil servants. "Abbas took the money to pay members of the PLO executive committee and employees of Palestine TV," he said. "As a result, we were not able to pay the civil servants their full salaries." The announcement by the Fatah officials came on the second day of the meeting of the party's central committee in Jordan. The discussions are focusing on Abbas's efforts to persuade Hamas to join a national-unity government and ways of reforming Fatah following its defeat in the parliamentary elections. Abbas met in Amman with King Abdullah II and briefed him on the ongoing discussions and on the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Abbas also talked on the phone with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and urged her to intervene with Israel to ease its restriction on the Palestinians and to halt its military operations in PA areas. "We're not asking Hamas to recognize Israel as a prerequisite for forming a national-unity government," said Abbas Zaki, member of the central committee. "We're prepared to form a government with Hamas as soon as possible to avoid a catastrophe in the West Bank and Gaza Strip." He added, however, that the Hamas government must recognize all the signed agreements between Israel and the PLO. Salim Zanoun, another committee member, said Fatah favored forming a national-unity government with Hamas to resolve the current crisis in the PA. "This is the only way out of the crisis," he said. "President Abbas briefed the committee members on the outcome of his talks with Hamas on this issue and there seems to be a majority that supports this initiative." Azzam al-Ahmed, head of Fatah's parliamentary list, said earlier this week that his party would not join the Hamas government unless Hamas recognized Israel's right to exist. His remarks drew sharp criticism from Hamas leaders, who accused him of serving Israel's interests. "This is a dangerous precedent," said Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri. "This is a stab in the back of the Palestinian resistance groups and an attempt to poison the atmosphere on the Palestinian arena." Jamal Nazzal, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, strongly denied that his party had asked Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist as a precondition for joining the Hamas government. "We are only asking Hamas to recognize the history of the struggle of the Palestinian people," he said. The meeting in Amman is taking place against a backdrop of reports suggesting that Fatah is witnessing a renewed power struggle between representatives of the "old guard" and the "new guard." The central committee consists mostly of veteran Fatah leaders who have been accused of denying young grassroots leaders a say in the decision-making process. Fatah officials in Ramallah said the first day of the discussions was tense and included a heated exchange between some of the participants. They said some of the Fatah leaders held Abbas responsible for the party's defeat in the January parliamentary elections, accusing him of failing to fulfill his promise to implement major reforms and to get rid of corrupt officials. Others criticized his overtures to Hamas and expressed their opposition to forming a national-unity government.