Al Qaeda Leader Catches Jerusalem, Hamas and Fatah – All at Crossroads
Former Shin Beit director Avi Dichter rattled the party’s dovecote when he stated Sunday, March 5, that the Middle East road map is dead for lack of negotiating partner on the Palestinian side.
He was commenting on the terrorist group, Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel, disarm and honor previous agreements, as it prepares to take over Palestinian government.
He also injected some badly needed security steel into Kadima’s sagging campaign for the March 28 general election with a warning to Hamas’ designated Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniya: “Lead the government onto the road of murder and terror, and you will find yourself again behind bars or even in your old job as the late Sheikh Yasin’s chef to bureau.
Both these statements brought an indignant roar from Kadima’s No. 2, Shimon Peres, peacenik and architect of the discredited Oslo peace accords with Yasser Arafat. Far from being dead, he declared, the road map is the only path left for dialogue with the Palestinians.
Kadima’s No. 1, acting prime minister Ehud Olmert, has kept out of the fraternal fray. His PR advisers have urged on him a low profile for the campaign, mostly to disguise his weaknesses. Instead, Kadima leads off its electioneering broadcasts
Tuesday night with a tape glorifying the triumphs of the ailing prime minister and Kadima founder, Ariel Sharon.
Dichter, who is promised a senior ministerial post in a future government, was the first authoritative party spokesman to issue an unambiguous statement on Hamas’ rise to power. He instantly touched off controversy, thereby exposing the inability of Israel’s national leaders to chart a clear policy on this vital issue.
The Palestinian side is also pretty much at sea.
debkafile‘s exclusive sources report a secret rendezvous Haniya held that Saturday, March 4, with a group of members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council led by Abdullah Horani. They met at the Grand Beach Hotel in Gaza.
Since losing the January election, Fatah and its leader Mahmoud Abbas have been unable to decide whether to accept Hamas’s invitation to join a coalition government. The Horani faction promised Saturday to defy an negative Fatah decision and cross the floor to Hamas, because its members disapprove of Abbas’s goal of sitting down with the Israelis to negotiate a final-status peace accord. Like Hamas, this Fatah group maintains the inalienable right of all 1948 refugees to return to their former homes in pre-state Israel.
Haniya informed the group that Hamas’ dispute with Abbas over accords signed by former Palestinian Authority regimes is of no importance. The Israelis, he said, are anyway planning to bypass the negotiating track and execute unilateral pullbacks on the West Bank. He was not averse to such withdrawals, but insisted the Palestinians would make their own decision on final borders. The Hamas leader promised to take the Fatah dissidents into account when he settled his lineup.
According to debkafile‘s Palestinian sources, the Fatah opposition group is in fact a front for Fatah hardliner Farouk Kadoumi, who opposed the Oslo accords and the Palestinian-Israeli peace track. He is seeking to exploit the new order to get his representatives into the Hamas-led government.
He declared: “Entering the same parliament as the lay people, recognizing their legitimacy and the accords they have signed is contrary to Islam.” The al Qaeda leader called those agreements “surrender accords” and said the Hamas must continue “the armed struggle.” If Hamas does head a government, it must impose Sharia law in the Gaza Strip first, the West Bank, Zawahiri said. The Palestinians must not continue to live under Yasser Arafat’s secular law.”
These injunctions by an al Qaeda leader addressing Hamas by name had a powerful effect on the Palestinian street in Gaza. Hamas leaders sensed an al Qaeda bid to box them in and strengthen its own leverage the Gaza Strip, but were wary of challenging binding religious directives from a high authority in the world Islamic movement.
Politburo leader Khaled Meshaal, replied meekly from Moscow: “Our engagement in policy-making does not weaken the jihad.” Another senior official Mohamed Nazzal was braver. He conceded Zawahiri had a right to his opinion, “but we are neutral. When Hamas wants to take a decision it will be a step by the Hamas leadership alone and will be in the interests of the Palestinian people.”
The reverberations of the Hamas takeover of Palestinian government are just beginning. Kadima has been caught off-guard and is tilting towards unilaterism, but amid the uncertainties of an imminent general election, all of Israel’s mainstream parties are waiting for the shape of the Hamas-led regime to finally emerge before determining policy.