Haniyeh’s trip to Tehran highlights rift in Hamas

Haniyeh’s trip to Tehran highlights rift in Hamas

Haniyeh’s trip to Tehran highlights rift in Hamas


Gaza’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s visit to Tehran over the weekend and statements he and his hosts made about recognition of Israel served a severe blow to acceptance of the recently signed Doha agreement, which already has been receiving mixed reactions from Hamas.

Senior Hamas figures in Gaza, who stand to lose the most from the agreement, said the Doha deal was unacceptable, while top Hamas loyalists in the West Bank defended the agreement, raising new questions about the ability of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’ top leader in exile Khaled Mashaal to implement the deal, seen as their best shot yet at healing the rift following Hamas’ violent takeover of Gaza in 2007.

The deal, brokered by Qatar, was signed last week in Doha by Mashaal and the chief of the rival Fatah party Abbas. The agreement is to end nearly five years of the separate governments of Hamas in Gaza and Abbas in the West Bank, by establishing an interim unity government headed by Abbas that would prepare for Palestinian elections.

Gaza strongman Mahmoud Zahar, one of the masterminds of the Gaza takeover, said Mashaal did not consult with others in the movement before signing the deal. Giving Abbas the post of interim prime minister was “wrong” and “strategically unacceptable,” Zahar was quoted as telling the Egyptian news agency MENA on Feb. 11.

‘Hamas will never recognize Israel’

Haniyeh said Feb. 11 Hamas “will never recognize Israel,” in a speech in Tehran that is likely to complicate Palestinian efforts to form a unity government. “They want us to recognize the Israeli occupation and cease resistance but, as the representative of the Palestinian people and in the name of all the world’s freedom seekers, I am announcing from Azadi Square in Tehran that we will never recognize Israel,” Haniyeh said.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei supported Haniyeh’s statement and warned Hamas against any “compromise” in its fight against Tehran’s nemesis Israel, his official website reported.
“Always be wary of infiltration by the compromisers in a resistance organization, which will gradually weaken it,” Khamenei told Haniyeh, according to the leader’s website. “We have no doubt about your resistance and that of many of your brothers, and the people only have this expectation of you,” said Khamenei, reaffirming Iran “will always be alongside the Palestinian resistance.”

‘Deal needs improvement’

Yesterday, the head of the bloc of Hamas legislators in Gaza, Ismail al-Ashkar, alleged Fatah had not carried out promised confidence-building measures, such as releasing Hamas loyalists held in the West Bank.

“If the elections are to heal all our chronic, complicated problems, how can we have transparent and fair elections under such conditions?” al-Ashkar said. “If this agreement is to work, we need to improve it.”

Last week, al-Ashkar’s Parliament bloc came out against the agreement. In contrast, Hamas lawmakers from the West Bank supported the Doha agreement across the board, according to statements and interviews published on Hamas’ official website.

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.