Hamas rejects Abbas's attempts to undermine cabinet

PA official to Haniyeh: Change policies or be reduced to mayor of Gaza City.

zahar rally 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
zahar rally 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The new Hamas cabinet is determined to retain its powers despite Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's attempts to undermine it, PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh declared on Saturday. Haniyeh's announcement came less than 24 hours after he met in Gaza City with Abbas in a bid to resolve the power struggle that has been raging among Palestinian leaders since Hamas formed a new cabinet late last month. Shortly after Haniyeh made his statements, PA security officers loyal to Abbas prevented Haniyeh's convoy from passing through one of Gaza City's main streets. The convoy was stopped outside the offices of the Preventive Security Force, which consists solely of Fatah members, and ordered to turn away. A source in Haniyeh's office said the prime minister was on his way to a meeting with the Chinese representative to the PA. The incident is seen by some Hamas officials as a serious and dangerous escalation in tensions between Haniyeh and Abbas. At Friday's meeting, which was described by some sources here as "very tense," Abbas made it clear that he had a mandate to take any decision that served the interests of all Palestinians, a senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post. "Abu Mazen [Abbas] told Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders that he too was elected by a majority of Palestinians," the official said. "We don't believe that Hamas is capable of running the affairs of the people as long as it sticks to its present political platform." The official warned that unless Hamas changed its strategy and recognized Israel's right to exist, as well as all agreements that were signed with Israel, "Haniyeh will find himself serving only as the mayor of Gaza City." The official accused Hamas of issuing contradictory statements about the Islamic movement's political agenda. "In the morning they tell us that they accept the two-state solution, in the afternoon they claim that they had been misunderstood, and in the evening they come out with a total denial," he said. "This shows how confused they are; this is not a way to rule." Prior to the Abbas-Haniyeh meeting, an unnamed Hamas official said his movement was ready to accept a two-state solution. The official, quoted by The Associated Press, claimed that Haniyeh was about to relay this position to Abbas. The senior Hamas official said his movement is trying to deflect growing international pressure on the new cabinet. "Haniyeh is to tell Abu Mazen tonight that Hamas is able to adopt the two-state solution as a platform of the cabinet," the official said. "We want to give room for movement and to lift international pressure on the cabinet." However, Haniyeh did not raise the issue during the meeting, which focused mainly on Abbas's recent moves to curb the new cabinet's authorities. "Our cabinet was not appointed by anyone," Haniyeh is reported to have told Abbas. "We did not come to power with the help of tanks or through a coup. We are also not interested in competing with anyone." Haniyeh insisted that his cabinet be given full control over the PA security forces and finances, noting that Hamas would not agree to any attempt to cut the powers of the new cabinet. Although Haniyeh and Abbas failed to resolve the latest crisis, the two agreed to establish a joint committee that would try to patch up differences between the two sides. The crisis reached its peak last Thursday with Abbas's decision to appoint Gen. Rashid Abu Shabak as director-general of Internal Security. The decision drew sharp criticism from Hamas, whose leaders accused Abbas of trying to prevent the new cabinet from taking control over the PA security forces.