GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The new Palestinian prime minister on Thursday dismissed efforts by President Mahmoud Abbas to wrest authority from the governing Islamic militant group Hamas by granting his loyalists new powers.
Ismail Haniyeh told The Associated Press that his Hamas-led government will assume control of the Palestinian security forces, despite Abbas’ appointment of an ally to head three of the security branches.
The conflict was the latest indication of a burgeoning power struggle between the moderate Palestinian president and the militant group that took power last week after sweeping January elections.
“There are attempts to create parallel frameworks to some ministries in the Palestinian government,” Haniyeh said in an interview at his Gaza City headquarters. “But I don’t think (Abbas) can continue this pressure and diminish some of the authorities of this government.”
Haniyeh also told AP that Abbas, “as the head of the
Palestinian Authority and the PLO, can move on political fronts and negotiate with whomever he wants. What is important is what will be offered to the Palestinian people.” His comment appeared to open the door for Abbas to hold talks with
But he denounced Israel’s plans to unilaterally determine its future borders with the Palestinians if it deems that negotiations will not work.
Abbas, who favors restarting long-stalled peace talks with Israel, is amassing more power to bypass Hamas’ new rulers, who have provoked Western threats of an aid cutoff by rejecting Israel’s right to exist and refusing to renounce violence.
Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings, although it has largely observed a year-old cease-fire, and it is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the
Haniyeh said Abbas had assured him the security forces would remain under the control of the Hamas-led Cabinet, which, he said, did not take power “on the back of a tank” but in “transparent and fair elections,” referring to the group’s Jan. 25 election victory.
But hours later, Abbas appointed a longtime ally, Rashid Abu Shbak, to head the three security services that were to be under Hamas’ control, in addition to agencies already under the president’s aegis.
Palestine Liberation Organization, which Abbas heads, also ordered the Hamas-led Foreign Ministry to coordinate with it before making major pronouncements on diplomatic policy. The PLO is technically in charge of the Palestinians’ foreign affairs.
Haniyeh spoke as Israeli President Moshe Katzav tapped acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to form Israel’s next government. Olmert said he would quickly put together a coalition committed to carrying out his plan to pull out of most of the
Haniyeh said there has been no change in his group’s refusal to recognize Israel, renounce violence and respect all past accords signed by the Palestinian Authority — the three conditions Israel and the United States have imposed for dealing with Hamas.
At the same time, he struck a conciliatory tone when speaking about the United States, saying, “we don’t want feelings of animosity to remain in the region, not toward the U.S. administration and not toward the West.”
Haniyeh said his government could overcome a crippling financial crisis by appealing to Arab and Muslim donors.