Contrary to assurances by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a Palestinian unity deal will not lead Islamist group Hamas to recognise Israel’s right to exist and will not result in any Gaza militants coming under Abbas’s control, Reuters reported a senior Hamas official as saying on Tuesday.
Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a veteran Hamas official, said that Abbas was taking his time forming a unity government in an effort to overcome the objections of Western countries.
Hamas, which is viewed as a terrorist group by the U.S., the E.U. and other Western governments, agreed with Abbas last week to create a unified transitional cabinet with Abbas’s Fatah faction, paving the way for long-overdue elections across the Palestinian Authority territories. Abbas’s term as President officially ended in 2009.
Hamas won the last legislative elections held in the Palestinian Territories in 2006 and then seized control of Gaza a year later after a brief but bloody civil war ousted forces loyal to Abbas.
The latest reconciliation accord crossed a red line for Israel, which promptly suspended already-floundering peace talks with the Western-backed Abbas, saying it would not negotiate with any administration that included terrorist Hamas.
Zahar, one of Hamas’s most influential voices, said Abbas would take his time trying to assemble a government of technocrats. “He is seeking a guarantee that U.S. financial support will continue,” Zahar said.
In an effort to reassure Western governments and providers of aid, Abbas said the new government would recognize Israel and honor previous treaties with Israel. But Zahar dismissed this as a hollow gesture, saying “Abbas is not telling them the truth. He says ‘this is my government’. But it is not his government. It is a government of national unity. He is marketing it in this way to minimize the pressure.”
Hamas’s 1988 founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel and for the Islamic conquest of all mandate Palestine, including all Israeli land. It continues to say it will not recognize Israel officially.
The unity pact dodged the most flammable issue between Fatah and Hamas: who would be in charge of security.
Hamas’s armed wing has some 20,000 men in its ranks. Abbas has his own, Western-trained forces that often cooperate with Israeli troops and police in the West Bank – a practice that Zahar called “shameful.”
Zahar said Hamas would remain in charge of its own troops regardless of the latest unity deal and irrespective of who wins national elections unofficially slated for later this year.
“Nobody will touch the security sections in Gaza. No one will be able to touch one person from the military group. Nobody asked for that,” he said.