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On the Conflict Between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority By: Yael Yehoshua
MEMRI | Monday, July 21, 2003


Table of Contents

I. Abstract

II. The Conflict Between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas Over the Armed Struggle Against Israel

A. Palestinian Authority Criticism of Hamas Regarding Qassam Rocket Fire on Israeli Towns

B. Hamas Criticism of the Palestinian Authority Regarding the PA's Silence Over Hamas Martyrs (Shahids)

C. Negotiating a Truce (Hudna)

III. The Political Power Struggle Between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority

A. Efforts by Hamas to Establish a New Representative Authority For the Palestinians

B. The PLO Response

IV. Hamas Opposition to Abu Mazen's Appointment as Prime Minister in Light of the Conflict Between Hamas and the PA

V. Methods for Settling the Disagreements:

A. Dialogue and Agreement

B. Implementation of Palestinian Authority Policies

I. Abstract

One of the terms of the ' Performance-Based Road Map to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict' [1] is a demand that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Minister in Charge of Security Affairs Muhammad Dahlan immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence against Israel, confront all those engaged in terror, and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.

The two leaders, who are opposed to "the militarization of the Intifada," worked with others internationally and in the Arab world toward a declared suspension of violent activities – for three months on the part of the opposition organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and for six months on the part of the PLO. However, according to Palestinian reports on the Hudna (truce), senior members of Abu Mazen's government assured the organizations that no action would be taken to dismantle their weapons. This agreement was reached following the Cairo dialogue in January 2003, which failed due to both disagreement on a ceasefire and Hamas's refusal to recognize the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of Palestinians. [2]

Despite their current agreement on a Hudna, Hamas and the PLO/Palestinian Authority remain deeply divided on the following aspects of the struggle with Israel:

1. The goal of the struggle: Hamas demands the liberation of all of Palestine, which, according to the Hamas Covenant, is Islamic Waqf land, no part of which can be given up. The PLO, on the other hand, is working to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel, as well as the implementation of the right of return.

2. The means to these ends: Hamas views Jihad as the only means for achieving Palestinian goals, while the PLO has alternately adopted and backed away from the notion of an "armed struggle." In the past, PLO officials have defined the armed struggle as "the only means to the liberation of Palestine" and as "a strategy and not a tactic," as stated in the Palestinian National Covenant. In signing the Oslo accords however, senior members of the PLO publicly declared their rejection of this means. After the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the differences between the two groups were once again blurred as Fatah resumed its terrorist activities, some of which took the form of suicide attacks.

In addition to their fundamental disagreements, the PLO and Hamas have been engaged for years in a political power struggle. Since its founding, Hamas has refused to recognize the PLO as the sole representative of Palestinians, and it has sought to establish its own political base at the PLO's expense. Throughout the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Hamas has worked vigorously to promote its political ends and has aroused the anger of PLO officials.

Recently, the level of disagreement between the PA and Hamas has risen. Over the course of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, both sides have harshly criticized each other. The PA attacked Hamas in the press for launching Gaza-based Qassam rockets at Israeli towns, while Hamas has accused the PA of ignoring the deaths of Hamas Shahids (martyrs), and publicly challenged the PLO's status as the sole legitimate representative of Palestinians.

Another point of conflict was Hamas's opposition to the appointment of Abu Mazen as Prime Minister and its refusal to cooperate with the new government. This stance reflected the ideological differences between the two, as well as the power struggle within the Palestinian political arena.

Abu Mazen has thus far not entered into a confrontation with Hamas. Rather, he has chosen the approach of dialogue in order to reach an agreement on an end to violence in the framework of the Hudna. Despite their stated preference for dialogue and opposition to "an internal war," Abu Mazen and Muhammad Dahlan have said on several occasions that they are prepared to use force against the opposition factions to coerce them into accepting PA policy. Hamas, for its part, has declared that it considers "internal war" a red line, while at the same time emphasizing that it would act against anyone who attempts to disarm the movement or arrest its members.

II. The Conflict Between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas Over the Armed Struggle Against Israel

Hamas and the PLO/PA [3] disagree in principle on the armed struggle against Israel:

Regarding the goals of the struggle, Hamas supports the "liberation of all Palestine," which it defines in its Covenant as an "Islamic Waqf [religious endowment] for generations of Muslims until the Day of Judgment." [4] Hence, it is forbidden to give up this land or any part of it. The PLO, on the other hand, is demanding the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, as well as implementation of the right of return.

Regarding the means to achieve these goals, Hamas claims that "there is no solution to the Palestinian issue other than Jihad," [5] and that "death for the sake of Allah is the most sublime wish." [6] The PLO stance on the armed struggle has undergone changes. In the past, it was seen as "the only means of liberating Palestine," and was thus "a strategy and not a tactic," [7] as stated in the Palestinian Covenant. However, in the Oslo accords, and in a letter to the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jorgen Holst , Arafat stated that "the PLO opposes violence and terror." [8]

During the Al-Aqsa Intifada the differences between the two groups on this issue were once again blurred when Fatah resumed terrorist activities, some of which took the form of suicide attacks.

The conflict between the PA and Hamas over the armed struggle against Israel will hence be examined by way of two issues. The first is PA criticism of Qassam rocket launchings by Hamas, and the other is Hamas criticism of the way the PA views fallen Hamas members [shahids].

A. Palestinian Authority Criticism of Hamas Regarding Qassam Rocket Fire on Israeli Towns and Villages

Several times, the PA has criticized the methods and timing of armed activities carried out by opposition factions. While suicide attacks were a point of contention within the PA, there was consensus against mortar and Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli towns, which in most cases were executed by Hamas from the Gaza Strip. [9]

In an editorial, the political editor of the Palestinian News Service, WAFA, wrote: "Since we are not angels, and since we [also] have those among us who neither respect nor correctly understand the [current] stage and continue to fire mortars and what has been labeled 'rockets' in order to ridicule us before the world and lead to the mistaken notion that we are planning to go to war, while [in reality] we have no means of resistance – we warn against it. We think this method is destructive and that it is a method of collective suicide and an invitation to kill us." [10]

In his column in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, 'Adli Sadeq, former Assistant Minister for Planning and International Cooperation, responded to Hamas's claim that those opposing the firing of Qassam rockets are interested, essentially, in ending the resistance: "The writer of these lines, and the majority of our people like him, are proud of the resistance and do not oppose it, because it is the continuation of their ongoing struggle. But, resistance is one thing, and particular forms of action are another thing. In order to ease the mind of the Qassam rocket, so it won't think I have anything personal against it, I would like to stress that I [also] oppose the use of Scud missiles from Beit Hanun, Rafah, or Sheikh 'Ijlin… It may seem that I oppose [the] Hamas [movement]… but the truth is that our concern for the safety of our people and our youth from every faction, including Hamas youth, is the only reason for the things we say. The opposition of the writer of these lines to Qassam [rockets] is not opposition based on its technological [abilities] or its lack of effectiveness, but rather strategic and political opposition." [11]

Strong opposition to the use of Qassam rockets has been voiced for some time by two people who are now charged with working toward an end to the violence – Abu Mazen and Muhammad Dahlan. The two expressed their opposition to Qassam rockets as part of their general opposition to the military character of the Intifada and their call to return to its popular origins. This, in their opinion, will lead to diplomatic achievements. [12] Thus, in Abu Mazen's words, "The militarization of the Intifada was a complete mistake because we entered a war with Israel at its strong points and not at its weak points. The strongest thing it [Israel] has is weaponry, which is the weakest thing for us." [13] Dahlan, in a speech in Gaza, claimed that following the events of September 11, 2001, he sent a report to Arafat in which he recommended "leaving the Intifada behind us. The Intifada is a means and not an end… We should have turned it into a popular Intifada and put an end to the armed activities. But we didn't do this, and it seems we, as leaders, haven't got the courage to do it." [14]

In a speech given to Fatah leaders in Gaza in July, 2002, Abu Mazen said: "Gaza is like scorched earth because of the firing here and there due to new equipment – mortar shells and pipe bombs. I ask you, what are the mortar shells worth? I was informed that one mortar shell hit a mosque in Gaza. Why? Isn't this justification for them [the Israelis] to use tanks against mortar shelling? Similarly, the so-called pipe bombs, because of which 32 kids lost their hands when the [explosives] burst in their hands – Of what use are these inventions? Isn't this blood spilled in vain? Isn't it stupidity on our part to fire shots above the roof of a building – and then that building is destroyed on the heads of its owners and inhabitants, and the [Israelis] invade the city? Anyone who perpetrates such an operation is a criminal against his own people. This crime is being committed in Bethlehem, in Beit Jala, and in Rafah. Who will compensate those who lost their homes, which they toiled for decades to build? Isn't it better to stand with determination, strength, and honor before these people who destroy everything?" In his speech, Abu Mazen also said: "Those who manufacture the mortars and deal in them are the only ones who profit from them. They are dealing with our blood, and by agreeing with this, we are their partners. What is strange is that some [of us] see them [behaving this way] and remain silent." [15]

In an interview with the PA daily Al-Ayyam,Dahlan added, "there are negative qualities that have been attached to the Intifada and haven't yet been addressed, such as house-to-house shooting and mortar shells… We have to reexamine whether or not these methods are effective. I think they are damaging if the aim is to drag in Israeli tanks to destroy our homes. But if the aim is to drag in the tanks in order to destroy them, that's another matter." [16] In a recent interview posted on the Internet site www.elaph.com, Dahlan said, "We're not saying the Qassam rockets are the reason for Israeli aggression. But it's one of the excuses. We know [these rockets] are ineffective forms of weaponry and have no effect on the strategic level. But we've always known that Israel never needs to justify its aggression." [17]

Hamas rejected criticism of this method. The following appeared in an article authored by Hamas spokesman Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi which was published in the Hamas-affiliated weekly Al-Risala: "What raises questions is that the secret security meetings [of Palestinians] with [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon] took place simultaneously with a depressing media offensive that brings despair and plants frustration in the hearts of Palestinians [against Qassam rockets]. This offensive is being led by the official Palestinian spokesman's [office] and some influential members of the PA. And in order to strengthen it, the leaders of despair distributed the signatures of some people who were hurt by Zionist aggression [as a result of Qassam rocket fire in Gaza] in order to recruit them to stand against the resistance and create the illusion that the people are against continuing the Palestinian resistance, which is the only hope [of] escaping from the occupation." [18] The movement also decided to continue firing rockets for as long as the occupation lasts. In interview with the London daily Al-Hayat, Al-Rantisi said, "As long as [the enemy] commits new crimes – rockets will be launched." [19] Similar words were spoken by the spiritual leader of the movement, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin: "We will continue to fire Qassam rockets in self-defense, and they will be the response to aggression." [20]

B. Hamas Criticism of the Palestinian Authority Regarding the PA's Silence Over Hamas Martyrs (Shahids)

Hamas expressed criticism of the PA, claiming, for example, that the PA purposely refrains from reporting the deaths of Hamas martyrs (Shahids). The movement's London-based monthly, Falastin Al-Muslima, included an article by Mukhlis Barzaq criticizing WAFA (the Palestinian Press Agency) and the PA: "WAFA – Not Loyal to Martyrs." [21] He wrote, "To the Shahids who were honored to be among God's chosen when they fought a Jihad war to purify our holy land, no damage was done by the fact that their holy deaths were not reported by the [official] press agency of the [Palestinian] Authority, WAFA. Neither were they damaged by the fact that the Authority ignored them by not denouncing the abominable crime committed by the Zionist occupation forces against six Hamas commanders in the Al-Zaytun neighborhood on the evening of February 12, 2003." [22]

Another article criticizing this PA policy appeared in the Hamas-affiliated weekly Al-Risala. The article, authored by the newspaper's editor Sallah Al-Bardawil and titled "Blood on the Table," connects the murder of Hamas member Ibrahim Maqadme to the PLO Central Council meeting called to appoint a prime minister.

Bardawil's article is written in the form of a dialogue between a mother and her children, with whom she watched a television news report on the PLO's Central Council meeting to approve the nomination for Prime Minister, broadcast a few days after Maqadme's killing. The following is an excerpt from the article: "[The boy] Abdallah said: 'Aren't you paying attention?' I [the mother] said, 'To what?' He [Abdallah] said, 'They're drinking blood.' I looked and saw there were bottles on the table full of red-colored juice. I laughed and said, 'That's juice, my child.' [The boy asked] 'What kind of juice?' I said, 'salsa.' Amina, the two-year-old, screamed, 'Blood, blood!' I said, 'Oh, children, these are the people's leaders. They can't be drinking blood. It's forbidden to drink blood, children. They're meeting to appoint a prime minister.' Amina insisted they were drinking Shahid blood, and her older brothers and sisters agreed with her. They said, 'That's the blood of the Shahid Ibrahim Maqadme.' I said, 'God forgive me. This generation is so difficult.' The news report continued, and there was only brief mention of the Shahid Ibrahim Maqadme. But, [on the other hand], they mentioned the leadership conference on security coordination with the Jews. So I moved closer to the television and stared hard at the color of the bottles on the conference table."

Following publication of the article, Palestinian police called the heads of the weekly to a meeting on March 17, 2003 and informed them, without reason, of the decision of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat to shut down the journal until further notice. [23]

C. Negotiating a Truce (Hudna)

In January, 2003, negotiations to reach a truce agreement between the PA and the opposition factions were held in Cairo. In the course of the talks, Egypt presented the factions with a document it prepared, which states in Section 5: "Out of devotion to the spirit of the struggle and the resistance, and out of [a desire] to grant an opportunity to peace efforts to prove their effectiveness in carrying the [Palestinian] issue forward in the proper manner, and in order to conduct peace negotiations – a decision has been reached to freeze armed activities for a year, while we stress that our overriding goal is that all regional and international forces will work toward changing the current reality, pushing the Israeli side to withdraw and cease its killings, its assassinations, and acts of repression against the Palestinian people and leadership, and to return to the negotiating table under international sponsorship." [24] Hamas and Islamic Jihad refused to accept this proposal. As a result, according to the head of Egyptian Intelligence, Umar Suleiman, the talks were postponed until all sides agreed to the principle of a Hudna. [25]

In an interview given to the Nasserist Jordan weekly Al-Majd, Muhammad Nazal, a high-ranking member of Hamas, said, "Our clear position was that we don't agree to end the resistance. That was one of the essential points of disagreement that prevented the declaration of a joint agreement." [26] Ismail Haniyya, another senior Hamas member, said, "We in the Hamas movement have told Egypt in the past… that we do not agree to a Hudna [truce], that resistance to the Zionist occupation continues, and that there is a possibility that we exclude civilians from the cycle of the struggle [only] if the enemy commits itself to ending the murder of Palestinian civilians, [ends] the assassinations and the invasions [of Palestinian villages], and frees prisoners." [27]

Hamas spokesman Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi attacked the Egyptians for their proposal, saying, "They present the issue as if the Palestinian people are fighting their neighbors and not engaging in a war of liberation against the occupation. Why don't they ever say that it is the Palestinian people who are involved in a war of annihilation and are defending themselves in that war?" [28]

Following intense international pressure to dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure as stated in the roadmap, as well as Israeli pressure in the form of more frequent targeting of organizational activists (including an attempt to kill high-ranking Hamas leader Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi), Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced a joint initiative: a three-month suspension of military operations against Israel, including the firing of Qassam missiles, on the condition that Israel "end its aggression" and free all prisoners. [29]

Abu Mazen's government agreed to arrest anyone who violated the terms of the Hudna. According to Palestinian reports, however, senior members of Abu Mazen's government assured representatives of the organizations that no action would be taken to dismantle their weapons, as stipulated in the roadmap. For example, in the words of Ramadan Abdallah Shalah, General Secretary of Islamic Jihad: "Abu Mazen and his government stated that they would not take the measures that Sharon wants taken against the resistance factions, that is, dismantlement of arms, arrests, and the like. And this is the accepted view until proven otherwise… If this happens, we will change our minds about the initiative. It the Authority harms us, we will renew our painful strikes deep into the Zionist enemy." [30]

III. The Political Power Struggle Between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority

A. Efforts by Hamas to Establish a New Representative Authority for the Palestinians

Since its establishment, Hamas has refused to recognize the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people and it has asked to be an alternative source of authority.

Its dispute over the status of the PLO did not prevent Hamas from cooperating or participating in dialogues with the PLO. One example is the Khartoum dialogue held on January 4, 1993, between Hamas and Fatah representatives under the sponsorship of Hassan Al-Turabi, then the spiritual leader of the Islamic government of Sudan. In these talks, Hamas expressed its willingness to join the PLO, given three conditions: 1) The PLO will reverse its decision with regard to UN resolution 242; 2) Hamas will make up 40% of the Palestinian National Council; 3) Structural changes will be made to the organizational structure of the PLO. Hamas refused to accept the definition of the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people – "No one in the international or Arab arena expects Hamas to recognize this," said Musa Abu Marzuq, a Hamas official. [31]

These demands were rejected by the Fatah representatives. Yasser Arafat himself reacted angrily, saying, "What I took from the Arab League I will not give to Hamas… I haven't come to Sudan to sell the PLO… I propose that you be the second organization to the PLO, but not the first. This cannot be." The Hamas demands were perceived by the Fatah representatives as subversive – an attempt to create an alternative to the PLO – as indicated in the words of Hamas representative Ibrahim Ghoshe: "We expressed our willingness to enter the PLO… but the brothers of Fatah and the PLO talk about our desire to be an alternative to the PLO." The head of the Hamas delegation at the time, Musa Abu Marzuq, denied the charges, saying, "From a political point of view, we don't claim to be an alternative [to the PLO], and we don't suggest that we be an alternative." The talks ended without agreement but with a written summary declaring that the Hamas movement "stressed its adherence to the principle of joining the PLO as a necessary framework for unity of the Palestinian people, and it was therefore agreed to continue the dialogue." [32]

The establishment of the PA, and its commitment to preventing acts of terror, represent a threat to Hamas. Therefore, Hamas refrained from entering a domestic war with the PA, which, for it, meant crossing a red line. It has focused its activities on Jihad against Israel. The inferior status of Hamas was apparent in its 1995 dialogue with the PLO, which, unlike the talks in Khartoum, did not deal with the question of who should represent the Palestinian people, but rather with the nature of the struggle against Israel. In their summary statements, the two sides stressed their commitment to "prohibiting an internal war and maintaining the principle of dialogue as the sole, civil path to relations among the various sides in the political arena." It was also announced that Hamas "would avoid embarrassing the PA" by committing acts of terror within Area A. [33]

During the course of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Hamas's relations with the PA changed. Hamas has once again sought political hegemony, challenging the legitimacy of the PLO's position. This change in policy resulted mainly from the PA's weakened stance following Fatah's loss of popularity over the failure of the Camp David Summit, as well as from the many charges of corruption within the PA. Adding to Hamas's growing popularity were its terrorist activities against Israel [34] following the destruction of the PA infrastructure, activities to which Arafat gave the green light. [35]

The way Hamas leaders indirectly questioned the legitimacy of the PLO and raised the possibility of becoming an alternative to the PA was by criticizing the PA's handling of the Intifada. The following comments, for example, were made by the head of the Hamas Political Bureau Khaled Mash'al in an interview on the Hizbullah Television Network Al-Manar: "Real leadership does not rest on the suffering of the people and induce them to retreat, change their minds, or wave a white flag to surrender with the excuse of 'removing the people's suffering.' Real leadership tells its people, objectively and openly, that there is no other option but steadfastness. And if [they] aren't steadfast, the result will be [only] further retreat, and [in essence] we will gain nothing. We will lose the resistance, we will lose ourselves, and we won't fulfill any promise…"

"Today's leaders must tell residents of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and everywhere to show patience with the resistance, especially at a time when the people are not raising the white flag. Have you ever seen any sector of our people turn to Palestinian leaders to demand that they end the resistance because of the suffering? On the contrary, the people are telling their leaders: 'We are patient, we are happy about the resistance, and we want more resistance in order to defend ourselves. But we want you to support us, to ease our suffering and supply us with what is needed to be steadfast.' That is the responsibility of the leadership. It is not the responsibility of the leadership to discuss plans for peace, to return to negotiations and meet with leaders of the enemy – Sharon and others – in order to sell the people illusions. Real leadership must remain true to the resistance and afterward implement social plans and recovery plans that support a firm stand. Hamas, with its meager abilities, fulfills this role." [36]

Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, in an interview with the Israeli-Arab weekly Kul Al-Arab, said, "You know that no one will say there are two authorities in the land. Everyone says there is one authority, and that this authority is obligated to defend its people against aggression and to grant security to its sons. But, if the authority works to grant security to the Israeli enemy occupier, this means that there is no single authority, rather an authority that serves the Israeli enemy and the interests of America. The Palestinian people also need security, and it wants its land, its homeland, and its future. Therefore, we want one authority and one law, [provided that] this authority will defend the people, the land, and the homeland, and will defend the future of the displaced Palestinian people." [37]

In addition to these comments, stronger statements were made. Abu Muhammad Mustafa, the Hamas representative in Iran, announced plans to create an umbrella organization that would nullify the legitimacy of the PA. Called "The Palestinian Islamic National Front," the organization was to be composed of eight Palestinian factions that oppose the Oslo accords. [38] In addition, Hamas spokesman Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi, in an address delivered at the Islamic University in Gaza, said that his movement and its military wing, the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, "are the next alternative to those who threw away their rifles and relinquished the honor of the Jihad and the resistance." [39] The most blatant statements were made in an AP interview with Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a Hamas leader in Gaza, in which he said that "Hamas is now ready to lead the Palestinian people, and it has a political, financial, and social infrastructure that can take the authority in its hands." [40] This statement, which caused a political storm in the PA, was denied by Al-Zahar a few hours after it was made: "Hamas opposes the possibility of becoming an alternative to the PA, in its entirety or any part of it, under the umbrella of the Oslo accords." [41]

These expressions of Hamas's position were heard in the most recent Cairo talks in February, 2003. The movement refused to approve Article 7 of the Egyptian-drafted compromise agreement, which demanded that each faction "adhere to the chosen, legitimate Palestinian leadership led by Chairman Yasser Arafat." The movement claimed it was not willing to recognize the Palestinian Authority as the sole representative of the Palestinian people, since it is the product of the Oslo accords. It also stated a demand "to discuss a framework that includes all factions and forces as the source of authority for Palestinian policy decisions, after structural reforms are made in the PLO, in the decision-making mechanism, and in the Palestinian National Covenant," which, in their view, was altered to comply with the Oslo accords. [42]

In an interview on the Hizbullah television network Al-Manar, Hamas's Political Bureau head, Khaled Mash'al, explained that "at the talks in Cairo, we recommended to our brothers in the Palestinian factions and Fatah… that no one compete for leadership and no one fight for it… We insist that [no organization] have exclusive control over policy decisions, because policy decisions are a matter for all Palestinians and are not an individual or sole matter of any particular person, not from Fatah and not from Hamas, not from the Authority and not from any place else. Therefore, we demanded that the source of authority of Palestinian leadership be widened, that it make Palestinian policy decisions and determine which way to go. All forces, those of individuals and those of Palestinian organizations, inside and out, must take part in this source of authority, since we all represent the Palestinian entity, which remains steadfast, both inside and out." [43]

B. The PLO Response

Senior PLO officials completely rejected the Hamas demand to create an alternative source of authority for Palestinian leadership, which appeared to be an attempt to undermine the status of the PLO. [44] This view was expressed by Abu Mazen, who headed the Fatah delegation at the Cairo talks: "The leadership refuses to conduct negotiations on the framework of the PLO, although, in principle, it honors any [possibility] of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad joining the PLO. But [this will happen] without negotiating [the framework of the PLO] and without casting doubt on its legitimacy." [45]

Following recent statements by Hamas, particularly the declaration of A l-Zahar concerning the movement's willingness to serve as an alternative to the PA, some senior security personnel in the Authority prepared a memorandum warning against the ambitions of Hamas to replace Fatah as the dominant movement in the Authority and to take control of all PLO organizations, preferably by non-violent means. [46]

The Hamas position at the Cairo talks, and that expressed by Al-Zahar, validated an earlier claim made in closed forums by Palestinian officials (among them Abu Mazen and Muhammad Dahlan) that Hamas is interested in weakening and taking control of the PA. In an address to the heads of the Popular Councils in the Gaza Strip Refugee Camps, Abu Mazen said, "The future of the homeland must not be made hostage to the interests of individuals or organizations. Some of the organizations hold the view that 'we don't want the PA; we want to destroy it and replace it.' The result is that [they] will not take the place of the PA, and [essentially] there will no longer be a PA. When destruction comes, it hits everyone, without exception." [47]

When asked in an interview with the Palestinian weekly Al-Ayyam, if Hamas is interested in becoming an alternative to the Authority, Abu Mazen said, "I judge by their actions, not by their intentions. [Therefore], I ask myself, what is the aim of all these acts of suicide and killings of civilians in Israeli population centers? I want to [hear] one convincing reason for these acts." [48]

Speaking in a closed forum in Gaza, Muhammad Dahlan said, "There is a sense within Hamas that the PA no longer deserves to continue to exist… We sat and recalled every experience we've had with Hamas, and we decided not to give it this opportunity to destroy the PA." [49] In an interview on the Elaph Internet site, www.elaph.com, Dahlan said that Hamas is trying to establish the ground rules, behaving as if there is no Authority. The reason, he said, is that Hamas has its own plan that serves its own interests, and it is not interested in the existence of the Authority. [50] Dahlan made similar statements in a 1998 interview with Al-Ayyam: "Hamas is not an opposition group to the Palestinian Authority, but rather an alternative. Since its establishment, Hamas has been trying to limit the activities of the PLO." [51]

These comments were echoed by former Palestinian Supply Minister Abd Al-'Aziz Shahin in a lecture to the Palestinian Police in Gaza on March 24, 2003: "The Hamas movement has begun to compete with us for control. It wants to be given [representation of] 40% in order to share control with us. I say to it [Hamas]: You are contemptible, you movement of collaborators. If you want to be in power, [you must achieve] it through elections and not by sharing it with us." He added: "There's a debate within Hamas regarding the movement's position regarding the Palestinian Authority. One branch wants to maintain cordial relations and reach an understanding with the Authority, and one branch, led by Dr. Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi, is interested in fighting the Authority. This branch is the one that gave the order to kill Colonel Rajeh Abu Al-Lihya. [52] Unfortunately, no one can stand against these unrestrained people because they fear accusations of corruption. The same accusation is made against us as members of Fatah. It's true we have some corrupt people among us, but you don't know how many corrupt people and thieves there are in the Hamas movement." [53]

Similar opinions were expressed by an adviser to Arafat, Bassam Abu Sharif: "Reorganizing the PLO and its leadership, and revamping its program, are important issues. But those gathered in Cairo forgot that there is a national Authority with an elected legislative council, elected presidents, and an elected local government, and that this Authority is the only source of authority [of the Palestinian people]. Likewise, the participants forgot that what they did, and the failure it lead to, has played an active role in weakening the besieged Authority whose institutions were destroyed by the occupation… The only road open to all these organizations is to act according to the judgment of the people and not enforce their rule with armed men in alleys and between houses, or diplomatic and military tactics that are forced on the people – which is also a form of terror against the Palestinian people." [54]

Strong criticism of Hamas and its intentions was expressed by PNC Member Ghazi Al-Khalili in his column in Al-Ayyam:"The Hamas movement refused to [include] in the [final declaration] any form of reference to the existence of a single authority – the PLO – as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. It demanded the establishment of alternative sources of leadership authority, as if the PLO and the Authority are only one organization among many. Thus, it opens the door to dismantling the Authority and the PLO, creating a situation in which there are a number of organizations that represent the Palestinian people…"

"From its inception, the Hamas movement was intended to be an alternative to the PLO, and even then, at the start of the first Intifada at the end of 1987, it refused to act within a single framework, tied to the PLO, and join the united leadership that included all factions and national forces at the time… And it proposed that its leadership balance the united leadership by [presenting] a different agenda that caused embarrassment to the actions of the Intifada. After the Oslo Accord and the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority, [the movement] continued on the same path when it refused to recognize the new Authority and to relate to it as the sole authority. It also operated on a practical level as an authority and a leadership that balances the Palestinian Authority through its on-site activities, its political agenda, and its actions [against the occupation] – an agenda contradictory to the Authority's general direction."

"Hamas has, essentially, imposed itself as a leadership equally balanced with the Authority and has conducted many governmental activities by utilizing its wide-ranging social services and financial abilities. During the [current] Intifada, Hamas strengthened its activities as an [independent] authority after Sharon attacked most of [the Authority's] security centers and other administrative centers."

"It seems that after Hamas succeeded in undermining the exclusiveness of the Authority and creating a situation in which a number of authorities operate, it found it was strong enough to take a significant step forward in its plan to share political representation of the Palestinian people with the PLO – one step toward becoming, at a later time, an alternative to the PLO. What encouraged [this trend] was the relative openness the Europeans have recently shown toward Hamas, openness characterized by contact with Hamas on the issue of ceasing actions against citizens. [There are also] rumors of a meeting between a [Hamas] official and an American diplomat in Qatar, and recent Egyptian openness toward Hamas, which Hamas considers one of the greatest achievements of the Cairo meetings… In my opinion, the declaration of Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar… is a dangerous sign that exposes how far Hamas has come not only in dividing representation [with the PA] or balancing the PLO's political leadership, but also in its practical ambitions to become an alternative leadership to the PLO on the government and policy levels." [55]

In his column in Al-Ayyam, Tawfiq Abu Bakr wrote in a similar vein: "Many representatives of opposition factions [at the Qatar talks] focused on a different issue, one totally unrelated to ending the daily spilling of our people's blood… They focused on the need to find a supreme national source of authority and the need to negate the exclusiveness of Fatah and Yasser Arafat [in representing the Palestinian people]. If only they'd had exclusive authority to make decisions over the past two years. If they had, it would have saved the Palestinian people and [solved] the Palestinian problem. But, in actuality, [Fatah and the PA] behaved in a conciliatory way toward those who grabbed the decision making from their hands."

"There is a clear and open attempt by certain people to nullify the PLO, [which is] the greatest achievement of our people at this stage in history… There are those trying to nullify the exclusive representation of the Palestinian people and consider this to be one of the achievements of the Intifada… To those who have followed the emotional statements of Hamas members over the past few days, it is clear that… the destruction of the PLO is not only the aim of Israel… but also the aim of the Palestinian extremists." [56]

On many occasions, Hamas officials have denied the claim that the movement aims to be an alternative to the PA. Isma'il Haniyya, a senior Hamas member, stated: "At the Cairo talks, we did not propose establishing an alternative institution to the PLO. We proposed a comprehensive reform of the organization, its institutions, its internal organizations, and its decisions, so that afterward, people can become part of a united and effective Palestinian framework based on liberation of the land of Palestine and resistance to the Zionist occupation." [57]

Muhammad Nazzal, of Hamas's Political Bureau, said in an interview posted on a Hamas-affiliated website, "We have no thought of becoming an alternative [to the Authority]. Those who talk about an alternative are inciting the head of the Authority against Hamas, while we all know that they are the ones who aim to become an alternative to the head of the Authority when they market themselves to the Americans and the Zionists by saying they are willing to confront Hamas and put an end to the resistance." [58]

The head of Hamas's Political Bureau, Khaled Mash'al, said in an interview on Al-Manar: "If we wanted to propose ourselves as an attractive alternative [to the PA] that would satisfy the international community and America, we would have achieved that a long time ago. But we refuse to be that way… We in Hamas are not competing with anyone in the Authority. It's no secret that the Authority offered us six ministries before it assembled its government, about four months ago." [59]

IV. Hamas Opposition to Abu Mazen's Appointment as Prime Minister in Light of the Conflict Between Hamas and the PA

The ideological and power struggles between Hamas and the PA were also expressed in the context of Abu Mazen's appointment as Palestinian Prime Minister. Hamas, together with the other opposition factions, contested his appointment as part of its general opposition to any government that supports the Oslo accords and was established as a result of international pressure. Such an appointment, it was feared, would lead to diplomatic progress that demands a fight against terror.

Prior to Abu Mazen's confirmation as Prime Minister by the Legislative Council, Hamas spokesman Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi stated: "We do not oppose particular people… but rather the diplomatic plan of the Prime Minister and the new government, which is the same plan endorsed by the Authority in the past and is based on [the] Oslo [accords]. That is, a plan that recognizes Israel and relinquishes at least 80% of Palestine. We opposed this in the past, and we will oppose it in the future… We will not be in any government that is based on Oslo. We do not think this is the appropriate time to expand governments; it is the time for liberation and resistance…" [60]

Following the confirmation of Abu Mazen's appointment, Al-Rantisi said in an interview with the Israeli-Arab weekly Al-Sinara: "Unfortunately, this government offers nothing new, neither new faces nor new content. Most of its members worked [within the PA] in the past and took part in every negative activity that has shaped the period since the Authority was created. Likewise, it has devised for itself the same plan as the previous government… This government is doomed to fail just like its predecessors… because its plan neither reflects the opinions of the Palestinian people nor fulfills its wishes." [61]

Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar said: "The appointment of Mahmoud Abbas to this position in this way is unacceptable. Moratinos says that Arafat has responded to European pressure by appointing Abu Mazen to this position, and we know there was [also] American and Zionist pressure in this direction. The meaning of this response to pressure is that it is also a response to the content of the position to be filled by the new Prime Minister. No country in the world would agree to the appointment of a senior [official] on the basis of external pressure, and this is something unacceptable to Hamas." [62]

As part of its opposition to the program of Abu Mazen's government, all opposition factions, including Hamas, firmly objected to the Prime Minister's intentions to disarm them, and they announced that they would work to thwart this plan.

When asked, in an interviewif his movement planned to cooperate with the new government Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi said: "Will we cooperate with them in the murder of Mujahideen? That certainly won't happen… How can we cooperate with the government and the Authority that both agreed to the road map, the first article of which reflects, in our view, the annihilation of the Palestinian existence and the annihilation of its cause?" He also said: "Mahmoud Abbas, 'Abu Mazen,' the new Prime Minister, spoke about disarmament of illegal weapons, and I ask, are the weapons used to fight the resistance illegal weapons, or are they the weapons of those who defend the settlements? We will, naturally, not agree to disarm, since we are using the weapons to defend [the neighborhood of] Al-Shaja'iyya [in Gaza] and all Palestinian land. If we disarm, how will we defend Palestine when there is another Israeli invasion? The weapons in the hands of the resistance are weapons of honor that will be pointed only at the Zionist enemy. The weapons that should be collected are the dishonorable weapons used to defend settlements and whose barrels are pointed at the homes of Palestinians. There will be no surrender [to the demand] to disarm." [63]

In reaction to Abu Mazen's appointment and attempts to speed the progress of the American roadmap, Hamas escalated its military operations and organized a number of suicide attacks on both sides of the Green Line. On the meaning of the escalation, Al-Ayyam columnist Muhannad Abd Al-Hamid wrote: "The explosions were a heavy blow to Abu Mazen's government, since the opposition is not willing to give the government any opportunity to progress or act according to its plan. More dangerous is the fact that the Islamic opposition has proven it has priorities that take the form of a veto. It therefore does not recognize the legitimacy [of the PA] and is not committed to the national decision. The Palestinian situation reveals hypocrisy in the government and the existence of several sources of decision-making." [64]

In an interview published on the website http://www.islamonline.net/, Al-Rantisi further explained: "The road map is not, as they say, a diplomatic plan that can lead to a peace agreement. Rather, it is a security plan designed to eliminate the resistance of the Palestinian people, subdue the Intifada, and enable the occupation to continue its hold on Palestine… Therefore, it will not succeed; it will be a complete failure. We, for our part, will work to convince the new Palestinian government to stop dealing with the road map in order to take care of the Palestinian problem and preserve the existence of Palestine. Any conceivable Hudna will lead, in the end, to sanctification of the occupation. The removal of the occupation and the liberation of Palestine cannot take place at the discussion table, but rather through an armed resistance and Jihad in the name of Allah." [65]

Similarly, a cartoon appearing in Al-Raya, a weekly affiliated with Hamas, portrayed a man wearing an explosives belt and signaling to an Israeli bus. The heading is, "The Road to the Map." [66]

One likely factor that strengthened opposition factions' stance against Abu Mazen's demand was Yasser Arafat's publicly reported disagreement with Abu Mazen and Muhammad Dahlan. Kul Al-Arab, for instance, reported on an exchange of words in a meeting between Arafat and Dahlan in which Dahlan said, "I have the support of America and Israel, and I am able to carry out the tasks assigned to me. I'm not interested in anyone interfering with my work." Dahlan is reported to have left angrily, while Arafat expressed disgust over his behavior. [67] In an interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Arafat said, "[Dahlan] doesn't deserve to be an official in the Interior Ministry. Therefore, I insisted that he be Minister in Charge of Security Matters and not Interior Minister, because there are higher ranking people in the Interior Ministry." [68]

V. Methods for Settling the Disagreements

A. Dialogue and Agreement

It appears that the first stage of the road map can be implemented only when the Palestinian opposition factions come under the authority of the new Prime Minister and Minister in Charge of Security Affairs. This can be achieved either by dialogue and agreement with the factions, the method preferred by Abu Mazen and his government and supported by Egypt, which is trying to organize further talks, or by force. [69]

Even before his election, Abu Mazen supported dialogue with the factions, particularly with Hamas, in order to agree on a joint strategy for the struggle against Israel. In a lecture in Gaza to the heads of the Popular Councils in the Gaza Strip Refugee Camps, he said, "Unfortunately, we have differences of opinion about Gaza. Let's enter a dialogue and reach an understanding, first among Fatah members themselves, then with other organizations [in the PA] – The Popular Front and The Democratic Front – and then with Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad in order to determine our direction. Through this dialogue, we can create a framework for an agreement, a plan for a [truce], in order to defend this country." [70] In a newspaper interview, Abu Mazen said, "What is needed is a joint Palestinian declaration by all organizations saying they are committed to ending the military activity for a specified period of time. That is what pushed us into negotiations with Hamas in Cairo." [71]

Abu Mazen continued to express these views after he became Prime Minister. In an interview with the Palestinian daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, he said, "We are willing to hold talks with [the factions], and we do not want the language of weapons to prevail over us. We are one people." [72] And, in an interview with Al Arabiyyatelevision, he said, "We are not interested in creating tension, violence, or civil war. But we also want our brothers to demonstrate responsibility and know that the fate of the people and the fate of the [Palestinian] cause depend on this moment. And this may be a rare opportunity after which we don't know what will happen. I want to set an example. When the Syrian brothers said that the offices [of the Palestinian factions] must be closed… the reaction of the Palestinian organizations was, 'We don't want to embarrass Syria; we don't want to push it [into a corner].' That's good. That's a sense of responsibility. If you don't want to embarrass Syria and push it into [a corner], and you even took some steps [in that direction], shouldn't you first avoid embarrassing your own Authority and people by saying these matters [i.e. plans for military operations] must be stopped, and by behaving like a human being, a citizen, a politician, and a fighter and saying there is no option but a hiatus? This hiatus is necessary to review and draw conclusions about the situation and to reach an agreement that brings relief to our people and rescues us from this occupation…" [73]

In an effort to reach agreement on a Hudna, Abu Mazen tried on several occasions to meet with representatives of the opposition. Many senior members of Abu Mazen's government pushed for these meetings, stressing the need for a dialogue among the factions. At a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher, Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath said, "What is important at the current stage is to accelerate the internal Palestinian dialogue in order to achieve a Hudna that lasts a full year… [during which] there will be an opportunity to examine the degree of Israel's seriousness and ability to actually implement [the road map]." 78 In his words, the dialogue among the factions would be renewed in the near future under Egyptian sponsorship, but "no internal dialogues [between the factions and the PA] will be held… until the Israeli government announces that it accepts the road map." [74]

At a symposium in Khan Yunis, Deputy Foreign Minister 'Adli Sadeq voiced the intentions of his government, saying that, "national dialogue is the only means that will be adopted by the new leadership and government to reach an understanding with the factions regarding the next stage and the issue of the other weapons [sic]." He said he understood from the meeting with Muhammad Dahlan that the new government is not considering the use of repressive means to deal with the issue of the weapons of resistance, since dialogue is at the top of its agenda in this matter. He also said that, "this government lacks the ability and the public and political support to exile or repress anyone, as long as the occupation still sprawls across the land and orders attacks, arrests, and assassinations against the [Palestinian] people." [75]

Zakharia Al-Agha, a senior member of the PA Executive Committee, said, "We support enforcing the law and are committed to the idea of one authority. But at the same time, we are against 'blowing up' the internal situation and are opposed to any denial of the principle that Palestinians have a right to resist [the occupation]… Any internal Palestinian disagreement on any issue must be solved through dialogue. We hope everyone will adhere to this and will work toward the success of the dialogue, since it is the only means of overcoming our problems and obstacles." [76]

The Hamas position differed. In an interview with a weekly affiliated with the Al-Raya movement, Hamas spokesman Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi said that he refused to conduct the same type of dialogue as the previous one, which failed: "If a dialogue is recommended, we will ask about its nature. If the dialogue has the same structure as the previous one, meaning that there is, in principle, an opportunity for negotiations at the expense of the Intifada and the resistance, through agreement to a Hudna – which we do not accept, which we oppose – the dialogue process will be ineffective, and in that case, I don't think we will agree to [participate in] a dialogue. But, if they come to the dialogue with a new spirit, an open mind, and an achievable plan that will protect the right of the resistance option, I think I would participate in a constructive plan like this. We must not forget that Abu Mazen met with the different factions and heard their principles. They are in complete contrast with the stated position of the new government, which has agreed to the road map and declared its willingness to act against the resistance [movements]. Instead, he belittled the position of the factions and committed himself to what he declared to the entire world, thus closing the door to dialogue, unless the government is willing to work in contrast to his stated position." [77]

Despite Al-Rantisi's words, Hamas did conduct talks with Abu Mazen in an effort to reach agreement on the nature of the struggle against Israel. Hamas abruptly froze the talks following Abu Mazen's speech in Aqaba. The movement was harshly critical of the speech because of its call for an end to armed operations and its description, in Hamas's view, of the Palestinian opposition as terror. It also criticized the fact that there was no mention of either final status issues – Jerusalem and the refugees – or prisoners, which Hamas perceived as concessions.

Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi stated: "It is not possible to conduct a dialogue with Abu Mazen… [He] closed all doors to meeting [with us] when he committed himself before the entire world on dangerous matters that the Palestinian people does not agree with at all." [78] In an interview on the Al-Jazeera television program "Open Dialogue," Al-Rantisi said: "Abu Mazen tells us certain things and makes promises behind closed doors, and later we're surprised and shocked [when we hear] that he speaks to the entire world and promises Bush and Sharon [that he will] restrain the Intifada and abolish the resistance, makes accusations against the legitimate resistance of the Palestinian people, and describes it as terror and violence… We noticed that Abu Mazen uses double language, one that he uses behind closed doors and another [when he speaks] to Sharon and Bush, and we understood that he has thrust a knife deep into the Palestinian dialogue." [79]

Similar sentiments were expressed by Khaled Mash'al, Hamas's Political Bureau head, in an interview aired on Al-Arabiyya: "Aqaba and Sharm Al-Sheikh shed light on what was needed [from the PA]. Bush wanted the PA, through Abu Mazen's cabinet, to commit itself not only to the Hudna, but also to dismantling the infrastructure of the resistance, which they call terror, disarming it from all its weapons and striking all forces of the Palestinian people…"

"The speeches in Aqaba revealed the danger: The conspiracy is bigger than the one presented at the Palestinian dialogue. [At the dialogue], we were told: 'All we want is to get through this period. Let's make a Hudna and a ceasefire. There will be no dismantling of weapons.' What was said behind closed doors was one thing, and what was said in Aqaba was another. Therefore, afterward, there was Palestinian anger. Imagine a Palestinian speech that speaks of the resistance as terror and about putting an end to the armed resistance. And the speech says nothing about the rights of the Palestinians; the 8,000 of us who are prisoners… are not mentioned… Before Aqaba and Sharm Al-Sheikh there was serious dialogue and there were no commitments… Sharm Al-Sheikh and Aqaba came, and all Palestinian factions felt that at Aqaba all issues were discussed and decided. So what's the point in conducting a dialogue…" [80]

Following the great pressure put on the PA to achieve a ceasefire agreement, as well as the first attempt by Israel to kill a top-ranking member of Hamas, Al-Rantisi, and repeated attempts to kill others in the movement, Hamas renewed its contact with Abu Mazen as part of the dialogue among the factions. When the dialogue ended, Hamas and Islamic Jihad jointly announced that they would cease military operations for three months, given two conditions: an end to Israeli aggression and the release of all prisoners. Different versions of this announcement were given by the PLO, Fatah, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Troops. [81]

The fact that each movement made separate declarations of an end to the violence indicated that they were unable to agree with Abu Mazen on the wording for a joint announcement. Judging from comments made by high-ranking Palestinians, officials in Abu Mazen's government had three objections to the versions drafted by representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah. These officials demanded that the cessation of military operations not be contingent on Israeli actions, that it continue for six months instead of three, and that the written agreement contain a preamble that makes reference to the road map. For this reason, Hamas and Islamic Jihad published a joint communiqué, while the other organizations published their own announcements.

In a forum on the website www.islamonline.net, Hatem Abd Al-Qader, a Fatah leader and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), responded to the unsuccessful attempts to agree on a joint declaration, saying that: "There was an agreement that the movement [Fatah] approved together with Hamas and Islamic Jihad on a three-month Hudna contingent [on Israeli actions]…with no diplomatic content. When this decision was brought before the Palestinian diplomatic leadership and Fatah, it tried to make fundamental changes in wording, [such as saying the Hudna would continue] for six months, and add diplomatic content and things that are impossible to add. We, as the Supreme Committee in the movement, opposed this and told Hamas and Islamic Jihad about the problem within Fatah and our unsuccessful attempt to reach internal agreement. Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced a Hudna according to the same wording agreed to by Fatah." [82]

B. Implementation of Palestinian Authority Policies

In order to prevent civil war, a taboo concept in any dialogue among Palestinians, Abu Mazen and Muhammad Dahlan have recently avoided relating to the likely scenario in which they cannot impose government policy on the factions in a dialogue framework. Even given the tense relations between Hamas and Abu Mazen in the wake of Abu Mazen's speech at the Aqaba summit and the attempt on the life of senior Hamas member Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi, [83] Abu Mazen stressed that, "dialogue is the only way of achieving our goal. Through this dialogue, we are interested in calming the situation, not in civil war." [84] Similar words were spoken by Muhammad Dahlan: "There is no other path than dialogue open to Hamas. If it refuses to [conduct] a dialogue, then it is interested in an internal confrontation, and we, as the Palestinian Authority, are not interested in confrontation." [85]

Nevertheless, after the announcement of the [truce] by the Palestinian factions, Abu Mazen said, in an interview with Reuters: "From now on anybody, any faction, any party which violates it – we will put them in prison." [86] This declaration by Abu Mazen echoes previous statements made by him and Muhammad Dahlan, mainly in closed forums. The two have said that in the event that no understanding or agreement is reached through dialogue, forceful steps must be taken against factions that violate orders given by the PA. According to Abu Mazen, " it is clear that the minority must obey the rule and decision of the majority." [87]

In a lecture delivered in Gaza to Fatah officials and commanders, Abu Mazen said: "Talks are of no value if they remain in the air and aren't accompanied by actions... All factions dared to violate official Palestinian orders, and no security measures were taken that would make people feel there is a Palestinian Authority. I'm not speaking of repressive actions. But as long as we have committed ourselves to preventing this, we must take steps to guarantee it… Whether these people are from Fatah or [other] organizations, a firm and determined stand must be taken against anyone who fires on others [Israelis] and, in essence, fires on our people and its diplomatic achievements." [88] In another speech tothe Popular Councils in the Gaza Refugee Camps, Abu Mazen said: "It is the duty of the new government [that preceding Abu Mazen's] to determine the path, to declare it and convince our people that it is the path that will lead to our desired goal. Then, there will still be some, here and there, who depart from the Palestinian consensus. We will try to compel them to place the supreme Palestinian interest above their personal interests by using force as needed." [89]

Also lecturing in Gaza, Muhammad Dahlan made similar comments: "We have a red line. Palestinian society will not be dragged into domestic fighting... but [it] must not resist when we want to arrest someone. [In response] to the burning of a PA police station, we will burn down all the Hamas centers. We have goons just as they have goons. If we do not feel that the Hamas is serious, we will start arresting." Dahlan referred to Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi as "a walking civil strife, and an ignoramus. Who does he think he is – the Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban?" He added that, "the Palestinian people are a mob that opts to extremism and rejection of [any offer]," and that "the Palestinian leadership must force its decisions on the people for certain issues, even if it has to use a stick… We can force a [certain] faction to stop launching mortar shells, because the Israelis are bulldozing 200 dunams in response." [90]

In addition, the former Palestinian Supplies Minister, Abd Al-'Aziz Shahin, in a lecture in Gaza, called for returning power to the Authority by "taking a stance against these gangs." He mentioned that in 1996, the police succeeded in silencing Hamas and its leaders, and that the time had come to do it again. [91]

Hamas officials voiced their objection to a war within the Authority but took pains to mention that they would take a firm stand against anyone who tries to arrest its activists, and would even escalate the struggle against Israel in response. In an interview with Kul Al-Arab, the spiritual leader of the movement, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, said: "We don't intend on entering a circle of internal Palestinian warfare, and, with Allah's help, our weapons will remain directed toward the occupying Israeli enemy and not toward the sons of our people. If anyone in the Authority is interested in this, they take responsibility for it. We cannot agree to enter an internal Palestinian struggle in which blood is shed." [92]

The Palestinian opposition factions, for their part, said they would resist any forceful attempt to end their activities. Al-Rantisi said, in an interview, that such an attempt would only escalate activities directed against Israeli targets: "We clearly say that if we are the targets of an attack by the Authority, we will employ two methods. First, we will escalate our resistance to the occupation, and second, we will not use weapons against the Authority… Any action taken by the Authority will put pressure on the Zionist enemy, and those who hurt the Palestine people through the Authority will pay a heavy price." [93]

Likewise, in an interview with Al-Raya, Al-Rantisi rejected the possibility of a confrontation between the PA and his movement, saying: "I am not one of those who thinks there will be [an internal Palestinian] confrontation, since 2003 is different from 1996." But he added: "We will never agree to the arrest of our members. We will stand firm against any attempt at arrest, and I mean this in a popular sense and not a military sense. We refuse to be dragged into an internal battle or a civil war. But we can, with the help of Allah, oppose any arrest through public means. At the same time, we clearly say that the Mujahideen will not give in to arrest. No one can take away their right to defend themselves if they are attacked. We will attack no one, but we do not agree to be attacked for no genuine reason, just because we resist the occupation." [94]

*Yael Yehoshua is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.


[1] http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2003/20062.htm

[2] For a full version of the Egyptian compromise proposal, see: Al-Quds, (PA), January 23, 2003.

[3] The PLO is the representative body for fundamental issues concerning Palestinians and its senior members are the senior members of the PA.

[4] From Article 11 of the Hamas Covenant.

[5] From Article 13 of the Hamas Covenant.

[6] From Article 13 of the Hamas Covenant.

[7] From Article 9 of the Palestinian National Covenant.

[8] http://194.90.101.51/documents/Oslo/recogniz.htm

[9] Other Palestinian factions, such as The Islamic Jihad and The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), make less intensive use than Hamas of mortar and rocket fire. The May 13, 2003 firing of an "Al-Quds 1 Rocket" on the Israeli town of Sderot, for example, "seriously injured three settlers." In a public statement, the Al-Quds brigades (a branch of the military wing of Islamic Jihad) declared that "this heroic act was performed in response to the continuing crimes of the occupation against our Palestinian people in cities and in [refugee] camps in order to emphasize the option of resistance, martyrdom, and adherence to the Intifada in light of efforts to end it… Our Jihad continues. Our actions will continue, and additional hard strikes deep into the heart of Zionism will come, with Allah's help." See http://www.qudsway.com/akhbar/arshiv/2003/5-2003/b/akbar05&13&9704.htm

[10] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, (PA), March 4, 2003.

[11] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, (PA), March 1, 2003.

[12] For Abu Mazen's stance on the military nature of the Intifada, see MEMRI Special Report No. 15.

[13] Aafaq Barlamaniyya [Supplement to the daily Al-Ayyam], (PA), Issue No. 2, November, 2002.

[14] See: Al-Hayat (London), October 16, 2002.

[15] See this website.

[16] Al-Ayyam, (PA), February 27, 2003.

[17] See this website.

[18] Al-Risala, (PA), February 20, 2003.

[19] Al-Hayat (London), March 2, 2003.

[20] See this website [February 2, 2003].

[21] The title of the article is a play on words. The word for "loyalty" in Arabic, when spoken, is similar to the name of the Palestinian Press Agency, WAFA.

[22] Falastin Al-Muslim, (London), March, 2003.

[23] It should be noted that the newspaper Al-Risala has been shut down more than eight times by the PA. In its place, the movement publishes a similar newspaper entitled Al-Raya.

[24] Al-Quds (PA), January 23, 2003.

[25] In response, Al-Rantisi said that anyone who does not agree to the principle of resistance should not come to the dialogue in Cairo. See: this website. [February 24, 2003].

[26] http://www.palestine-info.info/arabic/hamas/hewar/nazal1.htm

[27] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 23, 2003. Similar views were expressed by Muhammad Al-Hindi, a senior member of Islamic Jihad: "A yearlong Hudna damages the supreme national interest. There is consensus among the Palestinian factions and the Palestinian people concerning the continuation of the resistance and the Intifada, because [Israeli] aggression continue." See: Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, (PA), February 23, 2003.

[28] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, (London), February 23, 2003.

[29] See this website.

[30] Al-Safir (Lebanon), July 2, 2003.

[31] A written record of the dialogue was published in Al-Safir, (Lebanon), February 2, 1993.

[32] ibid.

[33] Al-Quds (PA), December 22, 1995.

[34] A survey conducted by Bir Zeit University in September, 2000, reported a popularity level of 13.9% for Hamas and 33.3% for Fatah. See: http://home.birzeit.edu/dsp/survey/results.html. In June, 2001, the popularity levels were 18.7% for Hamas and 22.9% for Fatah. See: http://home.birzeit.edu/dsp/surv4/results.html. In October, 2001, the popularity levels were 20.9% for Hamas and 19.8% for Fatah. See: http://home.birzeit.edu/dsp/surv5/results.html.

[35] Most of the reasons were recounted by Ashraf Al-Ajrami in an article in Al-Bayan (UAE), February 19, 2003.

[36] Al-Manar TV, (Lebanon), March 12, 2003.

[37] Kul Al-Arab (Israel), May 2, 2003.

[38] Al-Bayan (UAE), January 13, 2000.

[39] http://www.ezzedeen.net/Report/2003/02_2003/Taqrer24_02_03_2.htm

[40] Al-Ayyam (PA), July 2, 2002.

[41] http://www.haaretzdaily.com/ February 17, 2003.

[42] Al-Ayyam (PA), February 10, 2003.

[43] Al-Manar TV (Lebanon), March 12, 2003.

[44] Al-Ayyam (PA), February 10, 2003.

[45] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 23, 2003.

[46] http://www.haaretzdaily.com/ February 17, 2003.

[47] Al-Hayat (London), November 26, 2002.

[48] Aafak Barlamaniya (Supplement to the daily Al-Ayyam) (PA), Issue No. 2, November, 2002.

[49] Al-Hayat (London), October 16, 2002.

[50] http://www.elaph.com.:9090/elaph/arabic/index.html

[51] Al-Ayyam (PA), August 1, 1998.

[52] The incident involving Lieutenant Colonel Rajeh Abu Al-Lihya on January 7, 2002, was a turning point in relations between the PA and Hamas. The PA claimed that Hamas murdered Abu Al-Lihya for political reasons, while Hamas claimed it was retribution for an earlier killing.

[53] Al-Raya (PA), April 3, 2003.

[54] Al-Quds (PA), February 2, 2003.

[55] Al-Ayyam (PA), February 16, 2003.

[56] Al-Ayyam (PA), February 19, 2003.

[57] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 23, 2003.

[58] http://www.palestine-info.info/arabic/hamas/hewar/nazal1.htm

[59] Al-Manar TV (Lebanon), March 12, 2003

[60] http://www.palestine-info.info/arabic/hamas/hewar/rantesi(1).htm. Prior to Abu Mazen's appointment, he met in Gaza with a Hamas delegation that included Dr. Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi, Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahar, Isma'il Abu Shanab, and Isma'il Haniyya . According to Al-Rantisi, they exchanged views, and Abu Mazen's position included plans to establish a Palestinian state through negotiations that are preceded by an enforced period of quiet. He said that Abu Mazen did not invite Hamas to join the new PA government, despite Hamas's clearly stated refusal to join any product of Oslo or anything connected with it. In this website.

[61] Al-Sinara (Israel), May 2, 2003.

[62] F alastin Al-Muslima (London), April, 2003.

[63] Al-Sinara (Israel), May 2, 2003. Sheikh Abd Allah Shami, an Islamic Jihad official , said: "We cannot entrust our cause and our fate to the hands of Bush and Sharon. Our resistance is legitimate… I don't think it is possible to collect the weapons of the resistance, since the Zionist enemy hasn't given anything [in return]. The Palestinian people are not fighting only to improve its life under the occupation." See: http://www.abrarway.com/mb138.htm. A similar opinion was expressed by another Islamic Jihad official, Nafez Azzam, who said in response to Abu Mazen: "As the entire world knows, the weapons held by the Palestinian resistance are weapons intended for self-defense and for opposing and casting off aggression." http://www.abrarway.com/mb136.htm. In an interview with the Israeli–Arab weekly Kul Al-Arab, The Secretary-General of PFLP, Ahmad Sa'adat , said: "If the Authority attempts to expropriate the weapons held by the factions, we will not comply, and the Popular Front will not hand over its weapons. We hope the government will cross this matter off its agenda." See: Kul Al-Arab (Israel), May 2, 2003. Opposition to disarmament was also expressed by the military wing of Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Troops. One of the movement's communiqués read: "We want to make it clear to all the propagandists of defeat that our resistance will continue and grow, and that we will continue to point our weapons toward those who occupy our land and steal what it produces. We will not lay down our arms until the fall of the occupation. Today, our people are ready to respond with all their strength against those who try to halt the resistance in order to please the Zionist and Americans masters, and teach them a lesson… We call upon all military wings to escalate the resistance and to strike the Zionists wherever they are on our land, until they leave in defeat." See: http://www.fateh.tv/30-04-2003.htm. The Commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Troops announced the refusal of all Palestinian factions to disarm as long as the occupation continues: "If the occupation does not end, we will not only refuse to disarm. On the contrary, all of us – the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Troops, the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, and the Jerusalem Battalions of Islamic Jihad – will cooperate in resisting anyone who attempts to expropriate our weapons." See: This website.

[64] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 20, 2003.

[65] http://www.islamonline.net/livedialogue/arabic/Browse.asp?hGuestID=waAVpa

[66] Al-Raya (PA), May 22, 2003.

[67] Kul Al-Arab (Israel), May 16, 2003. Another report in Kul Al-Arab quotes a senior Palestinian source as saying that hundreds of officers had signed a memo sent to Arafat and Abu Mazen expressing their opposition to obeying Dahlan's orders as head of security matters. They claimed it was unreasonable that Dahlan, who carries the rank of colonel, should be giving orders to officers of his own rank and higher. The weekly also reported a stormy meeting of Fatah's Central Council on the subject of the "officers' memo" in which Dahlan's supporters and detractors exchanged accusations.

[68] Al-Sharq Al-Awast (London), May 25, 2003

[69] Al-Sharq Al-Awast, (London), May 14, 2003.

[70] Al-Hayat, (London), November 26, 2002.

[71] The interview was published on the same day by a number of Arab newspapers. See: Al Ahram, (Egypt), Al-Khaleej, (UAE), Al-Raya, (Qatar), December 1, 2002.

[72] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, (PA), May 5, 2003.

[73] Al-Arabyyia, May 20, 2003.

[74] Al Quds, (PA), May 23, 2003.

[75] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 20, 2003.

[76] Al Quds (PA), May 23, 2003.

[77] Al-Raya (PA), May 8, 2003. Islamic Jihad also spoke, hesitatingly, of dialogue. One of its leaders, Sheikh Nafez Azzam, expressed the movement's willingness to participate in a dialogue with the factions in order to iron out their mutual disagreements, since "the next stage demands a united Palestinian position in order to cope with Zionist aggression."

[78] Al-Hayat (London), June 8, 2003.

[79] Al-Jazeera (Qatar), June 14, 2003.

[80] Al-Arabyyia (Dubai), June 15, 2003.

[81] The PLO communiqué appeared in Al-Quds (PA), June 30, 2003; The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Troops communiqué was posted at http://www.kataebaqsa.org/page­_index.html; The Fatah communiqué was posted on the website http://www.alkrama.com/statement/statements6.htm It should be noted that the word Hudna (truce) is not mentioned in either the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Troops or the PLO communiqués. Rather, they refer to a hiatus or cessation of military operations.

[82] See this website.

[83] Following the attempt on his life, Al-Rantisi wrote an article in which he claimed that PA officials had a connection with the act: "If, as was leaked to the press, there was a security meeting on Sunday with [Israeli Defense Minister] Mofaz, and if the decision to kill me was approved on Sunday [as well], as was leaked to the Zionist press, how can we ignore the connection between [this meeting] and the planes that circled around the day after? I noticed them and quickly got out of the car… But, the next day, that is, Tuesday, the planes succeeded in hitting the car… Anyone with a conscience cannot ignore the responsibility this meeting had for the crime…" See: this website.

[84] Al-Quds (PA), June 10, 2003.

[85] Al-Hayat (London), June 8, 2003.

[86] http://www.ain-al-yaqeen.com/issues/20030704/feat9en.htm

[87] Part of a lecture delivered by Abu Mazen in July, 2002 to the head of Fatah. A transcript of the lecture is posted on the Fatah website.

[88] ibid

[89] Al-Hayat (London), November 26, 2002.

[90] Al-Hayat (London), October 16, 2002.

[91] Al-Raya (PA), April 3, 2003.

[92] Kul Al-Arab (Israel), May 2, 2003.

[93] http://www.palestine-info.info/arabic/hamas/hewar/rantesi(1).htm

[94] Al-Raya (PA), May 8, 2003.




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