Hamas: Security coordination with Israel foiled unity talks

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Hamas is strongly opposed to security coordination with Israel and considers it a form of “collaboration with the Zionist enemy.”

Palestinian security forces guard outside al-Istishari hospital in Ramallah (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

Palestinian security forces guard outside al-Istishari hospital in Ramallah

(photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

The Palestinian Authority’s recent decision to restore its relations with Israel has scuttled efforts to end the long-standing dispute between the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction and Hamas.

Last week, the PA announced that it has decided to resume its ties with Israel six months after PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared that the Palestinians would no longer abide by agreements and understandings signed with Israel and the US, including security coordination.

The announcement, made by Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the Palestinian General Authority for Civil Affairs, came as leaders of Fatah and Hamas were holding a meeting in Egypt to discuss ways of ending their rivalry and holding long-overdue elections for the PA presidency and parliament.

Abbas’s decision last May to sever relations with Israel and halt security coordination between the PA security forces and the IDF saw Fatah and Hamas renew their efforts to achieve “national unity” and end their conflict, which reached its peak in 2007, when Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip.

In July, Fatah and Hamas announced that they had agreed to work together to topple Israeli and US “plots” against the Palestinians. The announcement was followed by a series of meetings between leaders of the two parties in Turkey, Qatar and Egypt.

At one point, it seemed as if Fatah and Hamas were close to striking a deal that would end the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip and pave the way for holding new elections and forming a Palestinian unity government.

The PA’s decision to renew its relations with Israel, however, caught Hamas leaders by surprise. The decision is also seen by some Palestinians as a severe blow to Jibril Rajoub, secretary-general of the Fatah Central Committee, who was entrusted by Abbas with the mission of ending the Fatah-Hamas rift.

Musa Abu Marzouk, member of the Hamas “political bureau,” said on Tuesday that the PA’s decision to resume security coordination with Israel “foiled” efforts to achieve “national unity” and “reconciliation” between the rival parties.

Hamas is strongly opposed to security coordination with Israel and considers it a form of “collaboration with the Zionist enemy.”

Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Qanou also blamed the renewed security coordination for the failure of the efforts to end the dispute between his movement and Fatah.

“At a time when Hamas was seeking political partnership and a unified national strategy with Fatah, others in the Mukata [presidential compound] were searching for ways to resume security coordination at the expense of the interests of our people,” Qanou said.

Husam Badran, another senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said that the PA’s decision to resume security coordination with Israel was a “severe blow to efforts to achieve reconciliation and national unity.”

Badran and other Hamas officials accused the PA leadership and Abbas of preferring relations with Israel over ending the dispute with Hamas.

Fatah officials, for their part, dismissed the Hamas allegations and claimed that the reconciliation efforts failed before the decision was taken to resume security coordination with Israel.

Rawhi Fattouh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee who participated in the discussions with Hamas in the past few months, accused Hamas of “backtracking” on previous understandings reached with Fatah to hold presidential and parliamentary elections.

According to Fattouh, Hamas initially agreed to holding separate elections for the PA presidency, parliament and the PLO. Later, he said, Hamas changed its mind and demanded that the elections for the three bodies be held simultaneously.

The Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip was responsible for the collapse of the reconciliation talks with Fatah, Fattouh charged.

Munir al-Jaghoub, another senior Fatah official, said that it was clear to all that the differences between the Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip and those living abroad were behind the failure of the talks. He said that the differences among the Hamas leaders make it hard for them to take a unified position that serves the interests of the Palestinians and ends Hamas’s control of the Gaza Strip.

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