Hamas refusal to join gov't irks PA poses ' serious threats ... to law and order'
July 6, 2005
Hamas refusal to join gov't irks PA
Hamas's decision not to join the Palestinian Authority's cabinet poses a serious threat to the PA's efforts to impose law and order in the Gaza Strip after Israel's evacuation, PA officials warned on Tuesday.
Expressing regret at the Hamas boycott, the officials urged the Islamic movement to reconsider its decision.
"We regret Hamas's rejection of the call to form a national unity government," said Abdullah al-Ifranji, member of the Fatah central committee in the Gaza Strip.
The committee last week called on Hamas and other radical groups to join the PA cabinet ahead of Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. The call was made at the end of a three-day meeting in Jordan attended by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas and top leaders of the ruling Fatah party.
"We were hoping that Hamas would join the cabinet so that we could take a united position vis a vis the withdrawal and avoid chaos," Ifranji said.
"Hamas has decided to reject the offer by the government led by Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, as the offer is vague," Hamas said in a statement. "Hamas has informed Fatah of its decision," the statement added.
Hassan Yousef, a senior Hamas leader in the West Bank, said his movement prefers to hold parliamentary elections first before a national unity government is formed.
"We received the offer [to join the PA cabinet] and there are contacts almost on a daily basis with officials in the Palestinian Authority, but we will most probably reject the offer," Yousef said.
"We are not interested in being in the PA just for the sake of it. We believe that the right way to do it is through elections." Mushir al-Masri, a spokesman for Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said his movement was insisting on the formation of a united national committee run the affairs of the Palestinians after the withdrawal.
However, PA Minister of Civil Affairs Muhammad Dahlan, on Tuesday rejected the idea of forming a new administration in the Gaza Strip, saying such a move would harm the national interests of the Palestinians.
"The only model for cooperation is the establishment of a national unity government," he told a press conference in Ramallah.
"The rebuilding of the Gaza Strip is a collective national responsibility," he stressed.
"This is not a tactical invitation, but part of a serious strategic plan that is unrelated to the upcoming elections or internal differences," he explained. Qurei said he would pursue his efforts in the coming days to persuade the groups to join the cabinet.
Initially, Hamas seemed inclined to accept the offer to join the PA cabinet, saying it was studying it favorably.
However, the movement's leaders in the Gaza Strip reportedly changed their mind after consulting with Hamas officials in Syria and Lebanon.
Mahmoud Zahar, a top Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, lashed out at the PA leadership, saying his movement had lost faith in Abbas after he failed to abide by agreements reached with Hamas.
He also warned against a confrontation with the PA in the event that the Palestinian leadership did not coordinate with it for the Israeli withdrawal.
PA officials expressed deep concern at the Hamas decision, saying it could torpedo the PA's efforts to enforce law and order in the Gaza Strip after the Israeli withdrawal. "This is a negative development," said a senior PA official in Ramallah.
"Hamas is openly challenging the Palestinian Authority because it wants to establish a separate administration in the Gaza Strip. This is totally unacceptable."
Meanwhile, Abbas is scheduled to arrive in Damascus on Wednesday for talks with leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad on the formation of a national unity government. Abbas will also seek Syria's intervention to convince the radical groups to join the PA cabinet.