Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat—A well-informed Palestinian source has told Asharq Al-Awsat that President Mahmoud Abbas will refuse to participate in any Arab League summit also attended by Hamas.
Just days after the announcement of a proposed Arab League meeting in Cairo between Fatah and Hamas, to be held under the auspices of the Egyptian presidency hopes of Palestinian reconciliation, have been thrown into doubt once more. This meeting was arranged after the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, called for a special Arab summit to be held in Cairo to discuss Palestinian reconciliation.
The source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, revealed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is prepared to attend such a summit on the condition that no Hamas representatives attend. He stressed that meetings with Hamas and other Palestinian factions should be held following the summit.
The Palestinian source emphasized that the Palestinian Authority’s legitimacy would be harmed if Hamas were to attend.
He added that although the Palestinian president had initially welcomed the emir of Qatar’s proposal, the decision of Fatah and Abbas to attend the summit will largely depend on who else is invited, as well as the special meeting’s stated objectives.
This represents a retreat from initial acceptance of this Arab League meeting. Speaking on Thursday, Fatah official Yahya Rabaht confirmed that Egypt will host initial consultations with Fatah and Hamas officials to relaunch national reconciliation talks.
He told the official Palestinian Ma’an News Agency, “We made the needed consultations and reconciliation now needs to be implemented. We are going forward with one temporary national unity government [comprised] of independent figures and headed by President Mahmoud Abbas.”
He added, “Reconciliation is at a very important political stage.”
Hamas leader Khaled Mishal immediately welcomed the initiative to bring the two Palestinian factions together for talks in Cairo.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Doha summit, he said, “God willing, Mahmoud Abbas and I will succeed in achieving national unity. I can see how close it is.”
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi had also emphasized the importance of Palestinian reconciliation. He stressed that the Palestinian cause cannot move forward “without reaching a resolution and liberating the land that remains under occupation.”
These reconciliation talks are now in doubt due to questions over who will participate. Hamas and Fatah have agreed a broad reconciliation deal, but this has yet to be implemented following disagreements regarding legislative and presidential elections.
Palestinian Minister of Religious Endowments Mahmoud Habbash strongly criticized the idea of reconciliation talks.
During a fiery Friday sermon, he stressed that “we do not want a summit for discussions; we want a summit for action … to instruct the Palestinian factions and parties that are disrupting reconciliation.”
He asked, “What is there to discuss? There is an agreement, and it must be implemented.”
Habbash also stated that he would support Abbas should the president refuse to attend the summit alongside Hamas. He said, “Logic dictates that a meeting should be held for Arab heads of state, and then following this, the Arab heads of state will issue their instructions to the Palestinian factions.”
He emphasized that there is only one legitimate authority and presidency in Palestine, adding that Hamas is seeking to usurp the position of the Palestinian Authority.
He said, “They have plotted to do so. They tried to enter the Arab League by putting forward conditions, but [they] did not succeed. Then they tried to join by claiming legitimacy, but this also failed. Now, they are trying to pounce on the Palestinian Liberation Organization and its legitimacy.”