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Hamas, Jihad in 'Mini-flipflop' Over Statehood Bid

While Gaza terror groups 'officially' support the PA statehood bid, Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials expressed reservations
By David Lev
First Publish: 11/29/2012, 5:15 PM

Pictures of Abbas in Ramallah rally
Pictures of Abbas in Ramallah rally
Flash 90

PA terror groups in Gaza announced earlier this week that they supported the PA's statehood bid and were fully behind PA chief Mahmoud Abbas in his attempt to get the UN General Assembly to upgrade the PA's delegation to non-voting state observer status. But on Thursday, hours before the UN vote, spokespeople for both Hamas and Islamic Jihad indicated that their leadership might not be fully on board with Abbas' program.

According to Bethlehem-based news service Ma'an, Hamas top terrorist Ismail Haniyeh said that Hamas was in favor of the bid. “Nobody is against statehood, and (my government) supports any political movement to establish a Palestinian state on the occupied Palestinian territory,” Ma'an quoted Haniyeh as saying. “Our vision is to have a state based on inalienable Palestinian principles, and a state on the pre-1967 borders does not mean ceding the rest of Palestinian land.”

But on Thursday, Hamas spokesperson Mushri al-Masri added a note of dissonance to Haniyeh's comments. “The statehood bid has no meaning,” he said. “The PA did not ask the public what their opinion of this process was before going to the UN. A statehood bid must be based on a consensus of the Palestinians.” Al-Masri's comments, said Israeli analysts, indicated a level of discomfort in Hamas with the process, in line with Hamas' efforts to be seen as more “radical” than Abbas.

According to Ma'an, Islamic Jihad was supposed to be on board with the PA bid as well, but in a statement, top Jihad terrorist Abdullah Shami said that the group was actually opposed to it. “We will never support attempts by Mahmoud Abbas to get PA recognition at the UN,” he said. “Our goals and ideals are far greater than going to the UN General Assembly,” he added.

According to PA-watchers, there is a bare majority for the bid among Arabs living in PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, but by no means a consensus. A Ramallah resident quoted by Yediot Aharonot said “I support this effort because we will get a lot of support from the international community.” However, another resident, echoing a common concern among PA Arabs, said that he was opposed to the plan, “because many countries will stop sending funds here.”

A Voice of Israel public radio reporter, who was present at what was supposed to be a major PA-sponsored "independence rally" in Ramallah, said that his impression was that there was "not a consensus among PA Arabs for this move. I have seen the square where these rallies are held far fuller on other occassions." The reporter said that it appeared that many of the attendees were actually government employees who had been let off work earlier in the day, as well as schoolchildren who had apparently been brought from class, With that, the reporter said, there were only about 1,000 people at the event. "The relatively empty square indicates that not all Palestinians are in favor of this move, it appears," the reporter said.