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Hamas leader: Abbas could delay unity until September

July 18, 2011 3:47 P.M. (Updated: July 20, 2011 9:48 A.M.)
By: Bassam Abu Eid
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas may be stalling the implementation of a unity deal with Hamas to protect his government's bid for recognition at the United Nations in September.

That is the theory held by Hamas leader Ahmed Yousef, who says Abbas should do a better job of communicating his intentions to the Hamas leadership rather than leaving everyone to speculate on the stalled deal.

"There was no official request" to delay the agreement deal signed in Cairo, Yousef told Ma'an. But Abbas "might be trying to protect internal stability until September to make sure Israel doesn't thwart the UN bid.

"Hamas admonishes the president as he could have met with [party chief] Khalid Mashaal to update him on his foreign policy regarding September. They could have worked on other issues than the government."

Israel and the US adamantly oppose the bid for recognition. They also oppose the deal signed in May that would unite the competing regimes in the West Bank and Gaza for the first time since 2007.

Talks over how and when to implement the deal are stalled. Both sides insist they are still committed, but the divisive issue of who will serve as prime minister is blocking the resolution, Hamas and Fatah officials say.

Abbas would like to keep the US-backed premier in Ramallah, Salam Fayyad, in charge of a so-called technocrat government that would exclude Palestinian cabinet ministers who belong to Fatah or Hamas.

Hamas says Fayyad is too close to the US and Israel, and his appointment was never legitimate.

Yousef says Hamas' position on Fayyad isn't personal: "The problem is that he represents a crisis; [even] Fatah leaders have criticized him for running the Palestinian Authority into debt.

"The security issue, as well, makes it difficult to accept Fayyad for this transitional stage."

The bigger concern, Yousef says, is Abbas' refusal to resolve all this with Hamas. If the president is committed to Fayyad, why not explain his position to Hamas and see if the two sides can find common ground?

Abbas "could have clarified to Mashaal why he insists on Fayyad. They could reach a compromise on a balanced political position such as the appointment by Hamas of an authorized deputy to Fayyad in Gaza,” Yousef says. However, he said, the president is ignoring other parties which are supposedly his partners.

Asked about Hamas' position on UN recognition, Yousef says "it is a step in the right direction which nobody opposes. Hamas does not oppose the bid, although some view it as an exercise in futility."

These issues and others will be on the table this week if Palestinian factions from Gaza including Hamas and Fatah meet with Abbas on the sidelines of talks with ambassadors in Turkey, Yousef says.

In Istanbul, the factions will meet for a seminar and "try to come to an agreement to speed up the deal, and crystallize a future political vision to strengthen the Palestinian national project."

He says Egypt and Turkey are also trying their best to see that the deal succeeds.

Yousef adds: "Reconciliation has not failed, but it is in a critical stage and needs a network of support from Arab and Islamic countries to make sure Israel or the US will not thwart it."

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