Hamas Leaders Continue to Quarrel

Hamas' al-Zahar says Mashaal had "no right" to say Hamas would allow negotiations with Israel. Mashaal associate: al-Zahar has no right to comment.

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Elad Benari, | updated: 04:15

Mahmoud Zahar
Mahmoud Zahar
Wikimedia Commons

Conflicts within the Hamas movement? The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that Gaza’s Hamas strongman challenged the movement’s top leader because of his backing of negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

According to the report, Mahmoud al-Zahar, who serves as foreign minister in Hamas’ government in Gaza, said in an interview with the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar that Hamas’ exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal, had no right to say that Hamas would give PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas another chance to try to negotiate a peace deal with Israel.

“We didn’t know and were not consulted about the position of Khaled Mashaal, and this is not the correct position,” al-Zahar was quoted as telling the newspaper. “We haven’t given any chance for negotiations on behalf of us or the Palestinian people. Our program is against negotiations in this way, because they are a waste of time.”

According to the report, Mashaal backed the idea of negotiations with Israel when he signed the recent Hamas-Fatah unity agreement in Cairo.

In the interview, al-Zahar also said Hamas’ power structure should be reassessed. While the movement's key leaders are based in the Syrian capital of Damascus, al-Zahar suggested that the emphasis should shift to the areas controlled by the PA.

“The leadership is here, and the part (of Hamas) that is abroad is just a part of that,” the newspaper quoted him as saying. He added that the current power structure has harmed Hamas.

Mashaal’s confidant Izzat al-Risheq said in a statement quoted by AP that al-Zahar’s statements “are wrong. They don’t present the position of the movement and its institutions. Brother Zahar does not have the mandate to comment on the speech of the head of the movement.”

This latest quarrel between Mashaal and al-Zahar seems to be a continuation of one they had last week, when al-Zahar made similar comments to the Al-Quds newspaper.

“That does not represent the official position of Hamas,” al-Zahar said. “We do not agree to negotiate and do not encourage it. There is no change in Hamas’ position when it comes to the principle of resistance, which is the only option.”

Al-Zahar also said the recent Nakba Day protests “created a great danger to the Zionist entity,” and said that such demonstrations should be staged regularly and not once per year.

Other anti-Israel comments made by al-Zahar recently include telling a newspaper Hamas would never recognize Israel and that “If the Palestinian state does not encompass all of Israel the next generation will liberate the land.”