Hamas to take over some security forces

Fatah officials said that Fatah-dominated security forces would not accept being controlled by Hamas.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas agreed in a meeting Saturday with top Hamas leaders that Hamas will take control of part of the Palestinian security forces after it forms a government, a Hamas leader said in a press conference following the meeting. "There is no truth to baseless reports that President Abbas wants to take over the security institutions," Haniyeh told reporters after the meeting. An official source close to Abbas confirmed the statement to The Jerusalem Post. "Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) does not want control over all the forces," said the source. "The National Guard (military-type force) and the intelligence services will stay under the president's control, but the police, the civil guard, and the Preventive Security Forces will be under the control of the Interior Minister as the Palestinian law dictates." Abbas has not said that he wants to control all the forces, but other senior Fatah officials have said that Fatah-dominated security forces would not accept being controlled by Hamas. At the meeting in Gaza, which was the first to take place between elected Hamas officials and Abbas, the leaders agreed to convene the inaugural meeting of the newly-elected Palestinian Legislative Council on February 16, Yasser Mansour, No. 5 on the Hamas list, told the Post. If Israel prevents Hamas leaders in Gaza and around the West Bank from traveling to the meeting in Ramallah, it will be held by video conference. Hamas, whose leaders won a landslide election, hopes to form a new government this month. "Until now there is no decision on the formation of a government," said Mansour. "We want a coalition government and we are a speaking with all the parties. Until now Fatah did not give us an answer." In the past, senior Fatah officials have said the party, which dominated Palestinian politics for four decades, would not agree to take a junior role in a Hamas-led government. But no official party decision has yet been made. While it remains uncertain whether Hamas will be able to form a coalition government before the 16th of the month, a speaker of parliament will be chosen at the PLC meeting. The Hamas leaders also said in a news conference after the meeting that Abbas didn't demand that the organization recognize Israel or honor Palestinian Authority agreements with Israel as a condition for being charged with forming a government. Abbas "did not pose any political conditions related to the agreements, or to anything else," Haniyeh said. After parliament meets on February 16, Hamas would nominate a prime minister and submit that name to Abbas, who would then charge the nominee with forming a government, he added. Abbas, who wants to restart peace talks with Israel, was elected separately last year and now must work out a power-sharing arrangement with the Islamic group, which is sworn to Israel's destruction. An alliance with Fatah would allow Hamas to sidestep dealings with Israel, which the Palestinians cannot avoid entirely, if only for economic reasons. Palestinian infrastructure is heavily intertwined with Israel's, and most Palestinian imports pass through Israeli-controlled borders. But Fatah, defeated by voters fed up with corruption and lawlessness on Palestinian streets, could be well served by letting the inexperienced Hamas grapple solo with the Palestinians' many challenges, most prominently, relations with Israel and an impoverished economy. The group's landslide victory in January 25 balloting and its adherence to its call for Israel's destruction has cast into doubt continued Western aid to the perpetually cash-strapped Palestinian Authority. Israel, meanwhile, has refused to talk to a government that includes Hamas unless the group, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings, disarms and recognizes Israel's right to exist. Fallout from Hamas's victory continued to reverberate over the weekend. The UN Security Council demanded that the group recognize Israel and commit itself to a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the alliance's efforts to build ties with the Palestinian Authority have been cut short. Abbas must appoint a party to form the next government after challenges to elections results are cleared next week. He has said he likely would choose Hamas, which would then have up to five weeks to put together a government; if not with Fatah, then possibly with independent candidates and third-party lists. Abbas has said he plans to stay on as president and intends to ask the new cabinet to honor the Palestinian Authority's previous deals with Israel. Hamas has been vague about its plans for dealing with Israel, and has sent conflicting messages about its armed resistance against the Jewish state. On the one hand, it says it remains committed to destroying Israel, but on the other, it has said it was was ready to extend a year-old truce if Israel reciprocates. At the press conference, Haniyeh, asked if Hamas would honor the deals with Israel, replied, "The Israeli occupation has to recognize our legitimate rights first." Talks with Israel, he added, "are not on our agenda." As for recognizing Israel, another Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar said, "We are not going to recognize the Israeli enemy." Hamas has not carried out a suicide bombing since the truce was declared last February. In related news, top Hamas politicians were scheduled Sunday to set off an a tour of Arab and Muslim countries to try to drum up money and political support, Haniyeh said. They also plan to meet with movement leaders living in exile.