Yes, Hamas leadership does support Mahmoud Abbas' UNGA move to upgrade Palestine status

In a report from Amman, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said today that “President Mahmoud Abbas Monday received a phone call from Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in which he confirmed his support for the Palestinian bid to the United Nations General Assembly to gain a non-member state status”. This is posted here.

There has been confusion about this since last week, when WAFA published something similar, just after the cease-fire announced from Cairo. But some Hamas people denied the report.

This time, there is no denial.

Ma’an News Agency then wrote a corroborating report, posted here, saying: “Hamas chief-in-exile Khalid Mashaal telephoned President Abbas on Monday to confirm the Islamist movements’ support for the upcoming UN bid, the official news agency Wafa reported”.

UPDATE: On Tuesday, Ismail Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza that he supported the move in the UNGA:  “nobody is against statehood, and (my government) supports any political movement to establish a Palestinian state on the occupied Palestinian territory…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”. This is published here.

We reported this Hamas position last week — see our earlier report here.

"Gaza is the Palestinian state" – UPDATED

UPDATE:  It seems that the premise of this post — that Ismail Haniyeh expressed support for the UNGA move planned by PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas — may [or may not] be wrong.  A Hamas spokesperson [though not Haniyeh himself] reportedly denied that Haniyeh said this.  [AFP reported later that “Last week, Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement denied a report by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya had expressed support for the UN bid in a phone call with Abbas”. The AFP account is posted on the Al-Ahram website here.] This post was amended. But, even later reports suggest that our original reporting was correct. Hamas will at the very least not oppose the move [and may actually even support it]…

Of all the surprises that emerged from the IDF’s Operation Pillar of Clouds, one of the most significant is the pair of statements — after the cease-fire agreement — by the two top Hamas political leaders indicating their support for a Palestinian state.

Hamas was supposed to have done this before [several times], but then swiveled.

Now, just after the cease-fire, Khaled Meshal, long-time head of Hamas political bureau, said Wednesday night in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour: “I support a Palestinian state in 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital + the right to return”.  This was posted at here.  This interview can also be viewed here.

Amanpour was part of the caravan of top media stars who had flocked to Israel and to Gaza, with their entourage of producers and camera persons and assistants, during Operation Pillar of Clouds.

She had been reporting in Israel. Then, suddenly, she Tweeted on Monday that she was heading to Cairo to do the interview with Meshal.

On Friday 16 November, she Tweeted this: @camanpour — “In Israel. Reporting on growing fears of an all-out war:”

Then, on Tuesday 20 November she Tweeted @camanpour — “En route to Cairo for an EXCLUSIVE interview with Hamas’ political leader Khaled Mashal”.

On Wednesday 21 November, she sent out these Tweets:

@camanpour — “I’m in Cairo – just finished an EXCLUSIVE interview with Hamas’ political leader:”

@camanpour — “Khaled Meshaal says Hamas thought there was actually a deal last night, but Israel refused some points”

The cease-fire was announced late on Wednesday 21 November, in a joint media appearance in Cairo by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr, It was confirmed by a press appearance in Jerusalem by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, flanked by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Then, by a press conference in Cairo by Hamas’ Khaled Meshal, on an adrenalin high, and Islamic Jihad’s Ramadan Shallah.

In Amanpour’s interview, aired shortly after that, Meshal spoke in the first person: “I support a Palestinian state in 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital + the right to return”.

But, what did that mean? Was Meshal indicating that this was just his personal position?

The next day, Haniyeh appeared to repeat what Meshal said.  Haniyeh and Meshal are the two top political leaders of Hamas.

However, Haniyeh noted that he would like to see a Palestinian state on “all Palestinian land”.

[In both of his statements, Haniyeh also added another condition: the freedom of the Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails.]

With these statements, Haniyeh and Meshaal seem to have dispelled concerns that they might be working for a separate state in Gaza.

More than that — Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank now appear to agree on pursuit of state recognition within the UN.

In a day-after, post-cease-fire press conference in Gaza on Thursday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh seemed to say he supported Abbas’ move to get acknowledgement and acceptance of Palestinian statehood within the 1967 borders and with Jerusalem as its capital — with the right of return.

A Hamas official later reportedly denied that Haniyeh said this.

But, even later, Hamas officials were indicating that Hamas will, at least, not publicly disagree with the Abbas move.

FURTHER UPDATE: On Monday 26 November, after the confusion described above, Ma’an News Agency posted a story saying that “Hamas chief-in-exile Khalid Mashaal telephoned President Abbas on Monday to confirm the Islamist movements’ support for the upcoming UN bid, the official news agency Wafa reported”. This is posted here. The Wafa story is posted here.

UPDATE: The New York Times reported Saturday, here, that “[Ahmed] Yousef, a former Haniya adviser who now runs a research organization…said Hamas, which has opposed the United Nations bid almost as vociferously as Israel, would no longer speak against it. Asked about his vision for a Palestinian state, Mr. Yousef’s contours echoed those of Mr. Abbas: 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital”. The NYTimes described Yousef as “an analyst close to the Hamas leaders”.

UPDATE: Daoud Kuttab wrote on the Huffington Post site here that “Mohammed Ramahi, a Hamas legislator and spokesman for the group’s parliamentary faction, has told Al Jazeera that Hamas will support the UN initiative”.

UPDATE: AFP reported that in a Ramallah rally organized to support the UNGA move, “Abbas said the attempt to secure upgraded status was backed by many UN member states and by all the Palestinian political factions…Abbas reportedly told those assembled: “Today, the UN. After that, reconciliation, and after that, our own state”.

UPDATE: Ma’an News Agency reported that “President Mahmoud Abbas met Saturday evening with Hamas figures in the West Bank at his Ramallah office, according to sources present at the meeting. The meeting discussed Abbas’ bid for upgraded UN membership, due for a vote on Thursday, as well as reconciliation between Hamas and his Fatah party, attendees said. Nasser al-Shaer, a former government minister and Hamas deputy, said after the meeting that he supported the UN bid.” This is posted here.

UPDATE: Adam Shatz has just written in the London Review of Books that “If Israel were truly interested in achieving a peaceful settlement on the basis of the 1967 borders – parameters which Hamas has accepted – it might have tried to strengthen Abbas by ending settlement activity, and by supporting, or at least not opposing, his bid for non-member observer status for Palestine at the UN. Instead it has done its utmost to sabotage his UN initiative (with the robust collaboration of the Obama administration), threatening to build more settlements if he persists”.

UPDATE: Daniel Levy [Senior Fellow and the Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation — and the real drafter for the Israeli team of the Geneva Initiative] this week wrote that Hamas has helped develop and push forward the promotion of a real Palestinian state with state status in the UN: “the idea of any future peace arrangements including a Palestinian agreement to demilitarization just became more remote … Fatah and the PLO cannot be dismissed in Palestinian politics, but their longstanding approach of currying American favor, in the hope of delivering Israel absent the creation of Palestinian leverage and assets, has run its course. They appear to have missed the boat in leading a popular campaign of unarmed struggle and the PA’s security cooperation with Israel looks distinctly unseemly in the eyes of many Palestinians…And a likely U.N. General Assembly vote on Palestine observer state status has in all likelihood been reduced to a sideshow … This past week demonstrated that Europeans not only lack a coherent policy to the Palestinians; they are also missing such a policy vis-à-vis Israel … If the Palestine vote takes place at the UNGA, Europe should vote in favor not because of some mathematical computation of strengthening one Palestinians faction at the expense of the other, but rather because it is the right thing to do if Europe is committed to a two-state outcome. Europe might also be useful in utilizing some of the leverage it has with Israel as an outrider to an America still boxed in by its own politics…Russia and China will have enjoyed embarrassing the Americans and some Europeans this week at the UN Security Council over the Palestine issue [Gaza] by siding with Arab parties. It’s something they are likely to indulge again next week if the Palestinians go for a UN vote”. Daniel Levy’s analysis is posted here and here.

Continue reading "Gaza is the Palestinian state" – UPDATED

Egypt to hold parliamentary elections on Monday; no date announced for Palestinian elections

The reconciliation “summit” between PLO Chairman + Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas [on the right in the photo below] and Hamas Politibureau chief Khaled Meshaal [on the left, beaming, beside Abbas] went ahead in Cairo on Thursday 24 November.

In an almost-surreal — though all too real — backdrop to this meeting, the widely-detested use of tear gas continued against groups of people identified as protestors around the country, as in Cairo, around the Ministry of Interior and Tahrir Square, the military er”}began the construction of a concrete Wall [“Security Barrider”] topped with coils of barbed wire to cordon off the demonstrators.  Some have vowed to mount the barriers on Friday, however…  And members of the currently-ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] announced they would go ahead with the first phase of parliamentary elections that have been scheduled to begin on Monday 28 November.

In the Palestinian reconciliation summit, however, there were few concrete results announced — how could there be, with big economic sanctions ready to drop if there had been any announced agreement? — but it was packaged as a general overall success, the launch of a new era of cooperation.

Meshaal + Abbas meeting in Cairo on 24 November 2011

Photo provided by the Office of Khaled Meshaal and published in The Daily Star [Lebanon] here: Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
are seen together during their meeting in Cairo.
(AP Photo/Office of Khaled Meshaal) EDITORIAL USE ONLY, NO SALES

An analysis of the outcome

The Associated Press reported, hours after the meeting, that “Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal talked for two hours in Cairo but did not reach agreement on touchy matters like the composition of an interim unity government and a date for elections. The meeting raised new questions about whether the rivals are serious about sharing power, or just going through the motions”. This report was published on the CBS news site, here. This is probably way too superficial, and simplistic.

The Daily Star published excerpts from an AFP interview with Meshaal afterwards. According to The Daily Star, Meshaal told AFP that “We believe in armed resistance but popular resistance is a programme which is common to all the factions … Every people has the right to fight against occupation in every way, with weapons or otherwise. But at the moment, we want to cooperate with the popular resistance”.


Reigning in the rocket fire from Gaza

According to the story in The Daily Star, “the two leaders approved a two-page document reiterating their commitment to the main elements of the original deal, which was signed in May, and hailed a new era of ‘partnership’ between their two factions. The document, a copy of which was seen by AFP, outlines an agreement to observe a truce in the West Bank and Gaza Strip along with ‘the adoption of popular resistance which is to be to be strengthened … This resistance will be increased and organised and there is to be an agreement on its style, on greater efficiency and the formation of a framework to direct it’, it said”.

This language seems to apply to Gaza as much as to the West Bank — though Popular Resistance is the strategy that evolved recently in the West Bank in opposition to The Wall and to expanded Israeli settlement activity, and was endorsed by Abbas in the lead-up to the Palestinian “UN bid”, filed on 23 September in New York, for full membership in the international organization.

At the end of October, UNESCO members voted in Paris to admit Palestine as a full member state — and Israel immediately imposed economic sanctions including withholding of the transfer of VAT + customs tax it collects for the Palestinian Authority under the 1994 Paris Protocol, part of the Oslo Accords. Though the US Congress also voted for sanctions, including a withholding of funding to UNESCO, the Obama Administration is trying to hold off on measures that would negatively impact the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian firing of rockets from Gaza in response to every Israeli attack is claimed as a “natural response”, but the IDF Chief of Staff has recently said that he believes an major military operation may be required to stop this. Now, smaller armed groups claim credit for these sporadic actions, but the Israeli military + government say they hold Hamas ultimately responsible, because it is in control in the Gaza Strip.

Abbas has in the past called this sporadic projectile firing “stupid”, but hasn’t spoken out too much recently, at least publicly.

The Daily Star added that “Meshaal did not go into detail about the focus on popular resistance but said he had instructed the movement’s leadership in Gaza and Damascus, to ‘adopt a political line and one with the press that doesn’t upset the conciliatory spirit and that truly reflects the atmosphere of reconciliation … I asked them to take practical and positive measures to flesh out this agreement’.”   This report is posted here.

So, one effect of this meeting appears to be that the Hamas political leadership will be able to use the highly-valued doctrine of national unity to back up a decision to stop projectile firing by smaller separate militant groups.

Palestinian political prisoners

AP also reported that “In a show of good intentions, the two leaders decided that activists of the two movements would be released from detention, said Azzam al-Ahmed, an Abbas envoy”.  This was one of  the main demands of the Palestinian “youth” protesters,  and has been announced several times this year, before and after the reconciliation agreement initialled in May.

Like the Egyptian military leadership,  the Palestinian leadership has claimed that the prisoners each side holds are held on charges of criminal activity, not their political beliefs…

AFP / Hamas Press Office

Left to right: Hamas’ Khalid Meshaal, PLO + Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas, reconciliation negotiator Azzam al-Ahmad of Fatah

The pending “UN bid”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian “UN bid” is still pending, and the Hamas leadership has not opposed it. There is no indication from the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, at least for now, of what decision they will make in light of a likely failure to get enough votes to pass n the UN Security Council, which would trigger a threatened U.S. veto.

Either way, the lack of support within the UN Security Council is a “come back later” decision.

Continue reading Egypt to hold parliamentary elections on Monday; no date announced for Palestinian elections