Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared that support for Islamist resistance forces is obligatory and called for unity among all Palestinian factions during his keynote speech Tuesday at the International Conference on the Palestinian Intifada in Tehran.
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Some 80 delegations are taking part in the sixth-annual, two-day conference, among them senior officials of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The attendee list is more impressive than in previous years. One of the organizers of the event in Iran said, “Resistance forces receive great support from this country, and their situation has improved.”
Fatah did not send an official representative to the conference. Officials in Ramallah are openly fearful of increasing Iranian influence over Palestinian politics, mainly with respect to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in the wake of the freeze in the peace process and the retreat by Israel and the United States from their support of a two-state solution.
Participants at the Tehran confab include Salim al-Zaanun, chairman of the National Palestinian Council and a member of Fatah’s central committee. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas approved Zaanun's attendance as council chair but not as a member of Fatah.
Heading the conference is Ali Larijani, chairman of the Iranian parliament, who is considered to be one of the country’s most influential politicians. His assistant, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, serving as general secretary of the gathering, told reporters in Tehran Monday that given the dire situation of the Palestinians, augmenting the struggle for liberating Palestine “from the incurable cancer called Israel” is the best mode of operation.
“The Palestinian issue can be a common denominator for efforts by the Arab and Islamic world to assemble a unified strategy against the Zionist entity and against terror,” Abdollahian was reported as saying. He added that some Arab states seek normalization with Israel at the expense of the Palestinians – a dangerous position, he said, against which a policy should be formalized.
In a special interview to the Hamas-affiliated website Arsala, Abdollahian said that the conference would guarantee continued, comprehensive support for so-called Palestinian resistance forces. He said that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are a deterrent force in both the struggle for the rights of the Palestinian nation, and the struggle against Israel and its aggression. Support for the Palestinian people is a matter of principle for Tehran, he said, noting that this position has remained the same over time and that resistance forces today enjoy great support from Iran and are in much better shape than in previous years.
A senior official in President Abbas' office told Haaretz: “We are aware that the Iranians don’t hold back with money and weapons, and consequently has political influence. This situation will be even more evident now, with the U.S. and Europe not taking any steps against Israeli defiance.”
PA officials say they believe that the recent election of Yahya Sinwar as chairman of Hamas in the Gaza Strip will spark greater Hamas cooperation with Tehran.
The impact of Iranian intervention in Palestinian politics on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on the region at large was discussed during meetings two weeks ago between the chairman of Palestinian intelligence Majd Faraj, and American officials, as well as at the meeting between Abbas and the head of the CIA last week in Ramallah. A senior Palestinian official familiar with the content of the discussions said that the Palestinians told the American representatives that the absence of a genuine diplomatic horizon and the lack of restrictions vis-a-vis the settlements would amplify calls for Iranian involvement in the region.