Hamas Ministers Resign Membership in Movement to Appease U.S., Israel

Hamas announced yesterday that the ministers serving on its behalf in the new Palestinian government had resigned their membership in the organization and that others would inherit their posts in the movement.

According to the official announcement, the reason for the move is "to enable new leaders to fill their places in the ranks of the movement." Hamas officials admitted yesterday, however, that the organization had issued the statement in an effort to reduce the international pressure and economic siege on the government by presenting it as "separate" from Hamas.

The move is also aimed at lessening internal criticism sparked by cabinet members' attempts to convey soothing messages to the international community and Israel.

Meanwhile, the ongoing dispute between the new government and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas over power-sharing and influence ratcheted up a notch yesterday. For the first time, Abbas and the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee criticized the Hamas government directly, and the recent actions by Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar in particular. In a statement issued following a meeting headed by Abbas and held at his Muqata headquarters in Ramallah, the committee protested the letter Zahar sent earlier this week to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The statement calls on the government to coordinate its moves: "The committee emphasizes that the appeal by the Foreign Ministry to the UN secretary general and the world on fateful matters of principle requires advance coordination with the office of the presidency."

Renewed criticism was also directed at the guidelines of the new government headed by Ismail Haniyeh: "The government's vague positions and its failure to take into account the Palestinian consensus and the fact that the PLO is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, as well as its refraining from recognizing all the agreements, undermines the international community's efforts to bring an end to the occupation and settlement, especially in view of the partial solutions on the agenda [the convergence plan]."