Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned Saturday that there can be no two separate entities ruling Palestinian lands, stating that if the PA is not handed complete control of the Gaza Strip, Hamas will have to take full responsibility for the territory.
“Either we take responsibility for the West Bank and Gaza under one state, one regime, one law, and one weapon, or [Hamas] will take responsibility,” he said, during a speech at the closing session of the Palestinian Central Council, the PLO’s second highest decision-making body.
Though Abbas’s comment could have been interpreted as dramatically referring to Hamas possibly taking control of the West Bank — and the story was covered thus in Israeli media — he appeared to have meant only that Hamas would no longer be able to ride the PA’s coattails in the Strip. A PLO Executive Committee member present at the meeting later confirmed to The Times of Israel that Abbas was referring only to Hamas taking full responsibility of Gaza.
Reconciliation with Hamas, Abbas said, “does not mean a truce, ceasefire, or humanitarian assistance. Reconciliation means that unity should be reinstated. There is no state in Gaza and an autonomy in the West Bank, and we will not accept this. We will never accept the separation of Gaza [from the West Bank].”
Abbas also said the PA would call on the General Assembly to condemn Israel’s recent nation-state law when it reconvenes in September.
The nation-state law, which the Knesset passed with a 62-55 vote on July 19, enshrined Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people,” and said “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” It also recognized Jewish holidays and days of remembrance, declared Hebrew the state’s national language, and vowed to encourage Jewish settlement.
Abbas has called it a “racist and fascist law.”
Responding to Abbas’s threat, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told Army Radio: “Every year ahead of the General Assembly the Palestinians prepare some propagandist action. This is a ridiculous move.” He vowed to respond to any such action in kind.
The Palestinian leader claimed Israel “has violated all the agreements including Oslo which I signed. We benefitted, but they started to destroy it. And they did destroy it. Therefore, Oslo will not remain if the situation remains as it is.”
He also reiterated that there would be no ties with the US as long as Washington does not rescind its recognition of Jerusalem.
“Hope must remain with us that the state of Palestinian will inevitably come and that the Palestinian flag will be raised above Jerusalem,” he said.
The PA president also endorsed “popular resistance.”
“We must not underestimate popular resistance and the land should remain aflame with popular resistance.”
“Popular resistance” generally refers to non-violent protest against and confrontation with Israel.
On Friday, Hamas officials announced that talks on a long-term ceasefire agreement with Israel were put on pause until the conclusion of a Muslim holiday later this month.
The announcement came hours after a senior member of the terror group said that negotiations for a long-term ceasefire deal were in “the final stretch.”
Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen TV quoted Kahlil al-Hayya as saying the deal would follow understandings reached at the end of the 2014 war between the sides. He did not elaborate.
The Hamas leader was speaking from Cairo, where a Hamas delegation was said to be discussing the deal being mediated by Egypt and the United Nations.
On Thursday, Shin Bet security agency chief Nadav Argaman warned cabinet ministers that excluding the PA from a long-term ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas would send a message that terrorism is rewarded, Hadashot news reported.
Argaman also told members of the security cabinet that a truce that ignores Abbas would strengthen Hamas in the West Bank, where the internationally-recognized PA is based.
Hamas and the PA have been at odds since the terror group violently took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. A number of reconciliation agreements between them have failed to patch up their differences, most recently an Egyptian-sponsored deal signed in October.
Abbas refused to meet with visiting Egypt intelligence chief Abbas Kamel on Thursday, according to Channel 10. Kamel has been involved in the reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party, as well as the ceasefire talks on the Gaza border.
Kamel arrived in Israel Wednesday where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, and Argaman to discuss the emerging ceasefire with Hamas.
Also Thursday, a Lebanese-based TV channel reported that the long-term deal taking shape will last for a year and see the establishment of a cargo shipping connection between Gaza and Cyprus. Israel will have security control over the sea traffic between the Palestinian coastal enclave and Cyprus, according to the report from the al-Mayadeen television channel, which cited sources familiar with the details.
Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, seized the territory from the PA. It says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip, but others say it is overreaching and impairs economic growth in the coastal enclave.
Hamas and Israel have fought three wars in the last decade.
Egypt, too, has kept its Gaza border crossing largely closed during years of sour relations with the Islamist group ruling Gaza.
Two apparently mentally ill Israeli civilians — Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — who entered Gaza of their own volition in 2014 and 2015, respectively, are currently being held Hamas, along with the remains of two slain IDF soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.
Their families have been publicly warning the government against reaching any agreement with Hamas that does not include the return of the civilians and IDF soldiers’ bodies.