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PA Factions Split Over Statehood Bid

Just one week before the PA submits its statehood bid to the UN, the various Arab factions are divided over it.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 9/13/2011, 4:10 AM

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas
Flash 90

Just one week before the Palestinian Authority submits its bid for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations, PA factions are divided over the bid.

According to a report by the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency on Monday, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has announced its support for the UN campaign while the Hamas terror group, which controls the Gaza Strip, does not support it.

"We support the Palestinian leadership's plan to go to the UN because that is a natural right of the Palestinians and part of the political battle against Israeli occupation," Ma'an quoted Kayid Al-Ghoul, a member of the PFLP's politburo, as having said.

"Regardless of the outcome, this step should be part of the political battle we fight against occupation," Al-Ghoul added. "It will also be an opportunity to enlarge the circle of solidarity with the Palestinian people's rights, and to expose Israel's policies and the supportive U.S. policy."

Al-Ghoul also expressed concern that PA officials have referred to the possibility of canceling the UN bid if they received new offers to resume peace negotiations with Israel.

He said that canceling the bid would harm the PA's position and create political rivalry, adding that a cancelation would suggest the whole campaign was just a tactic aimed at returning to negotiations.

Ma'an noted that another group which supports the UN bid is the Palestinian National Initiative, whose secretary-general Mustafa Barghouti told reporters on Saturday that the UN bid is "the last option for two states."

"The time has come for an alternative. There is no space or place for talks," Barghouti said. "We won't be slaves to apartheid for the rest of our lives. If South Sudan could get statehood in 48 hours, then Palestinians should get it."

The report noted, however, that Hamas does not support the bid for UN recognition, saying it is a unilateral move by PA head Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas official Musheer Al-Masri was quoted by Ma'an as saying the bid is an "individual step taken by [PA Chairman] Abbas without consulting any faction," while Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar said the Gaza Strip has been left out of the campaign.

"Nobody has asked the people in Gaza to take to the streets showing solidarity with the so-called September bid," a-Zahar was quoted as saying. "If the Palestinian Authority calls for that, we will oppose it because they detain people in the West Bank. How can I give them the right to demonstrate in Gaza, while they do not give us that right in the West Bank?"

Ma'an noted that the Islamic Jihad terror group has also criticized the PA for launching the bid unilaterally.

"This move needs to be studied to make sure it will not ignore major issues such as the right of return, and the future of the Palestine Liberation Organization as an umbrella for the whole Palestinian people," Islamic Jihad spokesman Dawood Shihab was quoted as having said.

Shibab added that his group had reservations toward the UN bid and said that a state could not be announced under occupation.

Meanwhile, Russia announced on Monday it will support the PA in its bid for recognition as a new country by the UN.

Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin made the announcement in an interview Monday with the Interfax news agency, according to AFP. "We will, of course, be voting for any of the Palestinians' proposals. But I must say that we are not pushing them into it,” Churkin added. “We are saying that 'Whatever you decide to do, we will support you.'”

The clarification of Russia's stance comes in direct opposition to that of the United States, which said last week it will exercise its veto in the UN Security Council to oppose PA statehood.

Meanwhile, Germany sent its foreign minister to Ramallah on Sunday, in a last-ditch effort to convince Abbas that the statehood bid is a bad idea.