PA fears Qatar emir Gaza trip to end Hamas isolation

Abbas’s exclusion seen as blow to claim he is sole legitimate Palestinian leader; PA says move will solidify W. Bank, Gaza split.

PA President Abbas with Hamas PM Haniyeh 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)
PA President Abbas with Hamas PM Haniyeh 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)
The Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah has not concealed its disappointment with the Qatari leader’s visit to the Gaza Strip, which is expected to take place Tuesday.
PA officials expressed fear that the visit of the emir, Hamad bin Thani, would bolster Hamas’s standing not only among Palestinians, but also in the Arab, Islamic and international arena.
This would be the first visit by a head of state to the Gaza Strip since Hamas drove the PA out of the area in 2007.
The PA has since been working hard to convince the Arab and Islamic counties to boycott Hamas for carrying out a “violent and bloody coup” in the Gaza Strip.
But the visit of the Qatari leader to the Gaza Strip could mark the beginning of the end of Hamas’s isolation.
The visit sends a message to the rest of the world that the Hamas regime is a legitimate government and that the Gaza Strip is an independent political and geographic entity.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s absence is seen as a severe blow to his claim that he is the legitimate and elected leader of the Palestinians.
Abbas was not invited to receive the emir upon his arrival in the Gaza Strip, leaving the task to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
The PA’s biggest fear is that the visit would solidify the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip – creating the impression that the Palestinians already have two separate states.
On Sunday, the emir of Qatar phoned Abbas to “notify” him of the planned visit to the Gaza Strip. However, the emir did not invite Abbas to join him and it’s highly unlikely that the PA president would have accepted the invitation. Abbas wants to avoid a situation where he appears he arrives in the Gaza Strip as any foreign leader and not as president of the PA.
Although Abbas has publicly welcomed the emir’s visit, his aides said that he was “very disappointed.”
The aides said that during the phone conversation, Abbas affirmed the need to “preserve the unity of the Palestinian territories and end Palestinian divisions.”
In other words, Abbas expressed fear that the emir’s visit would solidify the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip and embolden Hamas to a point where it would not be prepared to make any concessions to end the power struggle with the PA president’ Fatah faction.
Fatah officials said that the Hamas government did not invite any of their representatives in the Gaza Strip to participate in the reception for the Qatari emir.
Yehya Rabah, a top Fatah official, said that the goal of the visit was “unclear,” adding that the emir did not receive permission from the “legitimate leadership” of the Palestinians to visit the Gaza Strip.
“We can’t welcome the visit of the emir and his wife to the Gaza Strip,” said political analyst Adel Abdel Rahman, who is affiliated with Fatah. “The visit does not serve the unity of the Palestinian territories, the people and the political system. On the contrary, the visit poses a threat to unity and our political system.”
Abdel Rahman said that Qatar’s plan to invest more than $240m. in various projects in the Gaza Strip was also “unwelcome.” He added that the plan was actually aimed at deepening divisions among the Palestinians, especially because it was not being coordinated with the PA leadership in the West Bank.
The analyst claimed that the emir’s visit would only serve Israel’s interest of separating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank.
Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official closely associated with Abbas, also voiced concern that the emir’s visit would consolidate divisions among the Palestinians.
He said that Fatah believes that the emir should have coordinated his visit with the PA leadership in the West Bank.