RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) -Confronted by a financial crisis and growing diplomatic isolation, the new Hamas-led government is accusing Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas of clipping its wings and seeking its collapse.
Tensions between the radical Islamist group and the moderate Palestinian Authority president have threatened to erupt ever since Hamas routed Abbas’s Fatah faction in January parliamentary elections and then formed its first ever cabinet.
But with the government unable to pay salaries of its employees nor exert control over the Fatah-dominated security forces, Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya claims Abbas is now pulling the rug out from under his administration.
Visiting the Jabaliya refugee camp in Hamas’s Gaza Strip stronghold, Haniya on Friday implicitly criticised Abbas by accusing the last Fatah government of leading the Palestinian Authority to the verge of bankruptcy.
“We came into ministries whose administrations were inundated. Today, there are attempts to remove (the cabinet’s) powers and place obstacles in its way,” Haniya told worshipers during Friday prayers.
“The government has been denied responsibility over security bodies, the borders and other powers, but it still needs to pay salaries.”
According to a source close to the presidency, Haniya told Abbas in a phone conversation “‘you are granting me too few responsibilities. I think I don’t have the powers of a prime minister’.”
The refusal of Hamas — behind dozens of suicide bombings against Israel in the last five years — to moderate its positions have placed its fledgling administration under tremendous strain.
Its failure to commit itself to non-violence nor recognise Israel’s right to exist has already led the European Union and United States to cut direct funding to the Palestinian Authority.
Since Hamas’ upset victory in the January 25 elections, Abbas has issued several controversial decrees transferring many powers previously held by the Palestinian government to his own office.
In the face of the growing mayhem in the Palestinian territories, one of Abbas’s central decisions was to name Fatah strongman in the Gaza Strip, Rashid Abu Shbak, as overall head of the myriad security forces.
Another move which further exacerbated tensions was the appointment of Mohammed Mustafa, a long-standing Abbas loyalist as head of the Palestinian investment funds, a body traditionally under the finance ministry which controls foreign aid given to the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas has also assumed power over the official Palestinian media, including the national television and official Wafa news agency.
In an interview to the Palestinian al-Quds daily, deputy prime minister Nasseredine al-Shaer accused “international, regional and local players” of collaborating to bring about the collapse of the Hamas government.
But Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina flatly rejected these accusations.
“Hamas (members) are looking for excuses for their shortcomings,” he said, adding that “all of the president’s powers are specified in the basic law.”
“Their programme has led them to a dead end,” Abu Rudeina said.
Fatah on Sunday refused to take part in an emergency talks called up by Hamas between the different Palestinian factions in a bid to find a solution for the financial and political crisis.