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Tensions Between Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Escalate - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Gaza, Asharq Al-Awsat – Hamas has threatened to scrap a truce with Israel if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas moves on his warning to dismiss the month-old Hamas-led government.

Abbas demanded on Sunday that Hamas recognize Israel and agree to peace talks to avert a financial disaster that could bring a food shortage because of the West’s aid cutoff.

The public warning further heightened tensions between Hamas and Abbas, who heads the Fatah Party defeated by Hamas in January elections. Abbas, elected separately, has been trying to trim the powers of new Cabinet.

In an interview broadcast Monday on CNN-Turk, Abbas said, “The constitution gives me clear and definite authority to remove a government from power, but I don’t want to use this authority. Everyone should know that by law this power is in my hands.”

Hamas reacted angrily, threatening to call off a 15-month truce brokered by Abbas that greatly reduced Israeli-Palestinian violence after five years of bloodshed.

Member of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Mohammed Nazzal told Asharq Al-Awsat “If Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) dismissed the Palestinian Prime Minister (Ismail Haniya); the Palestinian political system would deteriorate and result in a crisis.” He adds, “The majority of the legislative council is made up of Hamas [members] and it would not agree to any government unless the movement approves it.” Nazzal warned, “Dissolving the legislative council would be tantamount to declaring a war against the Palestinian people.”

Abbas does not plan to dissolve the government soon and will do so only if the economic situation in the territories becomes catastrophic, aides to Abbas said.

Under Palestinian law, if Abbas dissolves the government, he would ask someone else to try to form a Cabinet, which would need approval from the Hamas-dominated legislature.

Once Abbas determines there is a stalemate, he has the authority to order new elections.

Abbas said Hamas must negotiate with Israel unless it wants to lead the Palestinian people into a humanitarian catastrophe. “Hamas has to face the facts and establish communication with Israel,” he said. “I’m worried that the situation will turn into a tragedy in the near future. A short time later we could be up against a great hunger disaster in Palestine.”

The Palestinian leader vowed to work to solve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis with or without Hamas. “Hamas can support me or not. When I find a way to a solution with Israel, I’ll present this to the Palestinian people in a referendum,” he said.

Israel has not been in serious contact with Abbas since Hamas took power. The Israelis say they favor peace talks, but officials say they cannot regard the Palestinian Authority as a two-headed entity, ignoring Hamas.

The current crisis within the Palestinian Authority is the most serious since Hamas came to power on 25 March 2006. A senior Palestinian official told Asharq Al-Awsat that from his perspective, “Hamas won’t last [in power] past the summer.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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