Daily Israel Report

Hamas Denies Sabotaging Cairo Unity Talks

The feud between Hamas and Fatah proceeds apace in Cairo as acrimony over 'new demands' boils to the surface.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 2/24/2012, 12:17 PM

Abbas and Mashaal in Egypt
Abbas and Mashaal in Egypt
Reuters

Hamas on Thursday tried to dismiss reports the terror movement was attempting to strong-arm PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas into accepting new terms for a proposed reconciliation deal with Fatah.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told the Bethleham-based Maan News Agency that Hamas was moving forward with the unity deal hammered out by Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal in Doha.

"We don’t have any demands which would block the reconciliation," Barhoum said. "Any amendment to be added by Fatah or Hamas is to protect the process of reconciliation."

However, Issam Abu Dakka, a leader in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told Maan that Hamas had levied new demands in Fatah-Hamas talks currently underway in Cairo.

"Hamas has requirements on appointing ministers and that might postpone the formation of a new government, which was supposed to be discussed on Thursday in Cairo."

"Hamas wants to have 51 percent of ministers and wants to control three ministries: finance, interior and justice," he said. "It also demands that a deputy for the prime minister be named."

Other demands that emerged in Cairo reportedly included naming a Gaza-based deputy to Abbas and making his appointment as prime minister conditional on a vote of confidence in the parliament.

"Hamas demanded to keep the key ministries in the new government, including the ministry of interior," said another official. "It also demanded no change in the structure of security services in the Gaza Strip."

The official added Hamas "was not prepared to abandon control of Gaza." In essence, the new terms allow Hamas to retain sole control over Gaza while giving it significant influence in the running of PA enclaves in Judea and Samaria.

Analysts say Abbas is almost certain to reject Hamas' new terms as "unreasonable."

The new demands underscore a growing rift between Hamas' political leadership outside of Gaza and officials in the Hamas-ruled enclave over the terror group's direction resulted in sharp criticism for the agreement.

At an internal meeting chaired by Mashaal in Cairo on Wednesday, Hamas officials reportedly presented Mashaal with a united demand for new terms for a unity government with Fatah.

Mashaal has tentatively accepted the notion of a state on the 1967 borders, and offered Abbas a one-year mandate for negotiations with Israel – though his fellow politburo members maintain any agreement with Israel will only serve as a “prelude to war.”

However, Hamas’ Gaza chief Ismail Haniyeh maintains that all talks with Israel are “futile” and believes the tide of the Arab Spring will lead to victory in the movement’s armed quest to destroy the Jewish state.

Some observers have noted that the internal Hamas rift and sudden altering of terms in Cairo mirrors Israel's dilemma in restarting long-moribund peace talks with the PLO, saying it is "like negotiating with a hydra."

PLO officials have at once made a show of seeking talks, insisted on onerous preconditions before talks begin, launched a unilateral statehood bid at the United Nations, and pursued reconciliation with Hamas and its terror confederates.