A Blow to the Palestinian Authority

Hamas Leader Accepts Iran Invitation to Attend Non-Aligned Summit

Fayyad urges Haniyeh not to attend, says invitation is a 'stab in the back of the Palestinian national project.'

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has accepted an Iranian invitation to attend the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, despite protests by the Palestinian Authority which sees itself as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.

The Hamas-run government in Gaza on Saturday confirmed that the Hamas leader would attend the summit of 120 developing nations, according to the Palestinian news agency Ma'an.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called on Haniyeh not to attend the summit, saying that the fact that he was invited reinforces the rift in the Palestinian people.

Fayyad described the invitation to Ismail Haniyeh as "a stab in the back of the Palestinian national project."

"The Palestinian Liberation Organization is the sole representative of all the Palestinian people," Fayyad said in a statement.

In response, Haniyeh spokesman Mohammed Awad published a statement saying that Haniyeh had no intention of responding to Fayyad.

Iran hopes to earn diplomatic kudos by hosting a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement from August 29-31 at a time when the West is seeking to cripple its economy and isolate it diplomatically over its disputed nuclear program. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has already said he will attend, defying calls from the United States and Israel to boycott the event.

The invitation to Ismail Haniyeh, who heads the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, highlights the rift in the Palestinian territories and will complicate matters for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas was also invited to the summit and has said he will attend. His forces lost control of Gaza in a brief 2007 war with Hamas and he has since governed only in the occupied West Bank.

Iran has had strained relations with Abbas's Palestinian Authority, in part due to the PA's peace talks with Israel.

The PA has even accused Iran of plotting against it and of intervening in its internal affairs by inciting factions like Hamas to carry out military attacks on Israel in an attempt to sabotage the peace process.

Hamas, in contrast, is sworn to Israel's destruction, a position which is more aligned with the view of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who as recently as last week said there is no place for Israel in the Middle East.

Hamas and Khamenei - AP - Feb. 12, 2012
Ismail Haniyeh