Diplomacy

Top Hamas Figure: Abbas Is Misleading West About Unity Government

Reuters on Tuesday conveyed remarks made by Mahmoud Al-Zahar – a former Hamas foreign minister who the outlet described as one of the terror group’s “most influential voices” – emphasizing that Hamas would maintain its commitment to the eradication of Israel in the aftermath of a recently revealed unity agreement with the rival Palestinian Fatah faction, and that the Palestinian government envisioned by the agreement would follow that rejectionist stance:

“Abbas is not telling them the truth. He says ‘this is my government’. But it is not his government. It is a government of national unity. He is marketing it in this way to minimize the pressure,” said Zahar, who took part in the unity negotiations.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas had earlier in the week declared that the unity cabinet would remain under his political and ideological control, and that he would ensure that it recognized Israel, fulfilled binding Palestinian treaty obligations, and renounced violence. The announcements – aimed at meeting international demands stretching back almost a decade that any such government accept those three Quartet conditions – were widely carried by international, Arab, and Israeli media outlets.

The remarks prompted some diplomats to criticize the Israelis for having misread the situation, amid moves by Jerusalem to suspend talks pending the actual formation of the new Palestinian cabinet.

Zahar suggested that the promises were efforts “to minimize the pressure” that Abbas is feeling from the West and to “guarantee that U.S. financial support will continue.”

Meanwhile lawmakers on Tuesday advanced legislation that would cut off aid to the PA in the aftermath of the unity announcement, absent assurances that the PA had met a host of conditions including the Quartet conditions:

Republican Sen. Rand Paul is pushing legislation that would end U.S. aid to the Palestinians unless they renounce terrorism and recognize the state of Israel.

The Kentucky senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate introduced legislation on Tuesday that would cut off assistance, loan guarantees and debt relief to the Palestinian Authority or any affiliated government entity.

The law already states that any permanent arrangement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, would force the United States to end some $400 million in economic and security aid provided annually.

The new bills advanced language that has existed in one form or another in U.S. law since at least 2006.

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