Hamas and Fatah clashed on Thursday over a conciliatory speech delivered by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in which he justified security cooperation with Israel, saying that the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers last week was “destructive” for Palestinians.
Abbas delivered a principled condemnation of the kidnapping during a speech Wednesday to Muslim foreign ministers convened in Saudi Arabia, also saying the American citizenship of abducted teen Naftali Fraenkel was irrelevant to the PA’s efforts to retrieve the three boys. “We told them [the US administration] that whether Israeli or American, he is a human being,” he said.
His stance quickly drew fire from Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, who blasted Abbas for “basing his statements solely on the Israeli narrative, without presenting any true information.”
Hamas MP Mushir al-Masri joined Abu Zuhri’s criticism, accusing Abbas of preferring the three Israeli youths to thousands of Palestinian prisoners languishing in Israeli jails.
“The occupation said it is pleased with Abbas’s statements regarding the kidnapped soldiers (sic),” Masri wrote on his Facebook page. “How dare Fatah defend his statements? Is this not a blow to the legacy of the martyrs and an offense even to Fatah’s prisoners?”
Later, Masri juxtaposed a photo of Abbas with a photo of assassinated Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, affixing the text “we want our children home” to both. But while Yassin’s photo was matched with a smaller picture of Palestinian prisoners behind bars, Abbas’s was paired to a photo of the three Israelis. “The difference between truth and lie,” commented Masri, adding “the most important is the three Shalits.”
Fatah, which had remained largely silent on the week-old kidnapping, issued a detailed statement on Thursday, condemning the Hamas statements and defending Abbas’s stance.
“[Hamas’s] cheap accusations concerning the prisoners are nothing but words,” read a statement on Fatah’s official website. “Everyone knows that president [Abbas] has placed our heroic prisoners at the top of his agenda … his insistence on freeing the fourth batch of veteran prisoners halted the negotiations. We did not agree to what Hamas has agreed to, namely the deportation of prisoners abroad, far from their families.”
The Cairo reconciliation agreement signed between Fatah and Hamas in May 2011 explicitly called for “peaceful and political resistance,” the statement continued; the kidnapping, it implied, constituted a breach of that accord.
As the IDF expanded its West Bank operation on Wednesday to target Hamas’s civilian infrastructure as well as its military one, the Islamic movement found itself more diplomatically isolated than ever before.
In an interview with London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi Thursday, Hamas official Salah Bardawil admitted that Egypt “was not interested in what’s happening,” adding that Egypt has not contacted Hamas since the kidnapping last Thursday.
Hamas was in touch with Abbas, however, demanding an urgent Palestinian diplomatic drive “to stop the Zionist attack against the Palestinian people,” Bardawil said.