The P.A. is “prepared to hold general elections, and if Hamas wins, the president will hand over the Authority.”
Akiva Van Koningsveld
The Western-backed Palestinian Authority is prepared to hand over the reins to the Hamas terrorist organization after the war in Gaza ends, P.A. chief Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman told Al Arabiya over the weekend.
Once Israel’s ground operation against Hamas concludes, Ramallah is “prepared to hold general elections, and if Hamas wins, the president will hand over the [Palestinian] Authority,” P.A. spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh told the Saudi state-owned television outlet on Saturday.
Hamas’s popularity has surged in the wake of its massacre of some 1,200 people during its Oct. 7 attacks in the northwestern Negev. According to recent polls, most Palestinians believe that Hamas is “the most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people today.”
In a presidential runoff between Abbas and Doha-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the latter would receive 78% of the vote, with 51% saying they would vote for Hamas candidates if Abbas called a parliamentary election.
“The contacts with Hamas did not stop in Algeria, El-Alamein or anywhere else,” Abu Rudeineh told Al Arabiya, in reference to previous reconciliation talks held between Abbas’s Fatah faction and Hamas.
P.A. officials were in contact with Hamas terrorists as recently as last week, he added, without revealing details of the conversations.
However, “the main problem that we are all facing now is the war against the Palestinian people, the mass extermination and the attempt to destroy Jerusalem,” stressed Abu Rudeineh, calling on all Palestinians to rally behind the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.
Hamas hosted secret talks in Qatar last month with P.A. representatives about forging a political alliance, The Wall Street Journal reported. The negotiations included Haniyeh and former Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, as well as top Abbas confidant Hussein al-Sheikh.
The PLO umbrella
The Fatah Party is the ruling faction in the P.A., which controls Palestinian areas of Judea and Samaria. The envisioned Fatah-Hamas coalition would also include Gaza and fall under the umbrella of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
P.A. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Dec. 8 that the preferred outcome of the war against Hamas would be for the terrorist organization to join a P.A.-led governing body as a junior partner.
“If they are ready to come to an agreement, and really accept the political platform of the PLO, accept the tools of struggle, … there will be room for talks,” he said.
Hamas is an “essential part of the Palestinian political mosaic” and Israel’s stated goal of destroying the terrorist group is unacceptable, Shtayyeh subsequently declared.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State has refused to rule out Hamas retaining power in Gaza or joining a P.A.-led governing body as part of a unity deal or following elections in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Antony Blinken has repeatedly declared that Gaza must be handed over to the P.A. after the war. The solution “must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the P.A.,” Blinken said on Nov. 8.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Dec. 3 insisted that the Biden administration seeks to back an authority that “has the support of all Palestinians so that they can effectively help with post-conflict governance, particularly in Gaza.”
Last month, Mashaal claimed that “sooner or later, the United States will argue that Hamas is a reality and enjoys legitimacy among the people.”
“Rebuilding the Palestinian political scene without Hamas is a move destined for failure, but we are ready for reorganization within the framework of the PLO as part of a national consensus,” Mashaal told France’s Le Figaro newspaper, speaking from his residence in Doha.
Image: P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas speaks at a Fatah meeting at the Palestinian Presidential Office in Ramallah, Dec. 18, 2019. Credit: Flash90.