Hamas Widens Rift With Abbas Ahead of His UN Speech

Legislators in Gaza call for new elections and denounce the Palestinian president as illegitimate just before he plans to ask for swift international intervention to rescue a proposed two-state solution

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Abbas at the UN General Assembly, September 2018.
Abbas at the UN General Assembly, September 2018. Credit: Craig Ruttle/AP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

On the eve of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' speech to the UN General Assembly, in which he is expected to ask for swift international intervention to save the two-state solution, the rift and disgust between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is getting worse.

The Hamas Legislative Council denounced him on Wednesday as an illegitimate president who does not represent the Palestinian people. Ahmad Bahar, the council’s deputy chairman, told the lawmakers at a meeting that when Abbas takes the podium Thursday he will not represent the Palestinian people but only his own views.

He demanded that Abbas and the PA seek to cancel the Oslo Accords, their recognition of Israel and the security coordination with Israel and set up a national unity government that will advance new presidential and parliamentary elections. Palestinian lawmaker Ataf Adwan accused Abbas of yielding the Palestinian people’s basic rights, making him unworthy of representing them at the United Nations.

Palestinians don’t view the Gaza parliament meeting as having any practical implications. But the timing and statements show the depth of the rift between Hamas and the PA despite all the talk of conversations being held in Cairo aimed at promoting reconciliation.

Source close to the Hamas leadership in Gaza told Haaretz that the timing of the condemnations is related to the talks last week with the Egyptian intelligence delegation that visited Gaza and Ramallah. Hamas understood from these talks that Egypt is supporting Abbas’ insistence that there could be no calm with Israel – and therefore no effort to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip – without reconciliation and the return of PA control in Gaza.

“Most of the donor countries, including the Arab countries, have adopted this line,” the source said. “So it looks like Hamas is losing the momentum to advance calm on a separate track from reconciliation, and the situation in Gaza is getting worse.”

Meanwhile, the PA and Fatah are seeking to create greater public interest in Abbas’ speech. Huge screens have been set up in several cities to broadcast his address live, including in the Khan al-Ahmar compound slated for demolition and evacuation by Israel. Abbas is expected to mention Khan al-Ahmar in his address.

Dozens rallied for Abbas in Bethlehem on Wednesday. At the entrance to Abbas’ Muqata headquarters in Ramallah a sign was posted showing a certificate with Abbas’ details as a refugee from Safed, the subtext being that he would not yield on demands for the Palestinians’ right of return and will resist efforts to undermine UNRWA.

Fatah officials criticized Hamas leaders for attacking the president, accusing Hamas of playing into the hands of Israel and the United States which have attacked Abbas for his defense of Palestinian national principles, including demands for a state based on the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said Abbas' speech would be a last chance to save the peace process. He said Abbas would present world leaders with facts, and the steps the Palestinians will take if there is no response to his call to work against Israel and the United States to preserve the two-state solution.

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