debkafile reports: Washington backs Egyptian bid to sway Hamas leaders to accept a back-seat, wire-puller role in Palestinian rule and then extort

Hamas’ first response was a threat by its supreme commander Jaabari Abu Obeida to end its informal ceasefire and resume full-scale suicide attacks on Israel. This was a bargaining maneuver after Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman put the deal to Hamas leaders, Khaled Mashaal from Damascus and Mahmoud a-Zahar from Gaza whom he received in Cairo Monday, Feb. 6.
Also on Monday, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice put in a telephone call to Israel’s acting prime minister Ehud Olmert to convey the impression that the Bush administration favored the deal.
In Cairo, Suleiman held out the lure of the first Hamas audience with president Hosni Mubarak, if they proved cooperative.
According to debkafile‘s political sources, Rice argued in favor of letting Hamas form a government headed by a neutral figure under their backroom control. Hamas would get minor portfolios like Labor or Social welfare, but use them to pull the levers of government. Mahmoud Abbas said he could pull this off but, as usual, asked for time – six months’ grace in this instance to restore the strength of his Fatah. He would then cook up a constitutional crisis and call a new election in which the restored Fatah would oust Hamas.
Rice informed Olmert that Washington believes the Abu Mazen scenario can work because Hamas’ 74 legislative council seats are less than the two-thirds parliamentary majority needed to frustrate it. Israel was not asked for its consent.
debkafile‘s analysts sum up the real objective of this US-Egyptian exercise as being to buy six months of calm – time for edging Israel into accepting the accomplished fact of a Hamas-backed Palestinian government. Abbas has not the slightest chance of rebuilding Fatah. The funds Israeli transfers to a Palestinian government formally headed by a non-Hamas figure will therefore be available to build up Hamas’ strength. The radical Islamic terror group will use the six months’ grace to establish its legitimacy in government and quietly pick up international acceptance without recognizing Israel or disarming – whether Israel likes it or not.

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