Two weeks after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas publicly accused Hamas of scheming to overthrow him, the reported leaked minutes of a meeting between Abbas and the ruler of Qatar revealed on Tuesday the extent of animosity harbored by the Palestinian leader toward his Islamist rivals and government partners.
Abbas met with Qatari Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad in Doha on August 21, three days after the Israeli Shin Bit announced that it had arrested 93 Hamas operatives who were planning to carry out terror attacks across the West Bank and topple his regime.
Minutes of the meeting, written on official Qatari letterhead and signed by Sheikh Tamim’s chief of staff Khalid bin Khalifa Al Thani on August 23, quoted Abbas highlighting two “intractable issues” facing his leadership: the inability to negotiate with Israel, and the existential challenge posed by Hamas, Qatar’s protege. The document was published on Tuesday by Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, affiliated with Hezbollah and the Assad regime.
“Since the creation of the Palestinian Authority, they [Hamas] have been trying to undermine and topple it,” Abbas told his Qatari host. “They issue [religious rulings] to suit them and use religion to serve their purposes.”
“[In February 2007] we traveled to Mecca and swore to adhere to national unity. Three months later they carried out a coup against the PA [in Gaza]. Until today every time I mention Mashaal to King Abdullah [of Saudi Arabia] he says ‘that Mashaal is a liar’.”
Information about the Hamas plot was given to Abbas by Israeli Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen in a private meeting in Ramallah two weeks earlier, the Palestinian leader said. The Israeli information confirmed prior intelligence obtained by Palestinian agencies, including a CD implicating Hamas in an attempted plot on Abbas’s life.
“In 2006 they planted explosives on the road. They wanted to blow me up. They also dug a tunnel under my home in Gaza. Here is a CD with everything taped,” Abbas was reported as saying. “You can hear them saying, ‘This mine is for [Abbas]’.”
Abbas was also furious for having defended Hamas before the international community by denying the movement’s involvement in the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June, only to discover that Hamas official Salah al-Arouri claimed responsibility for the attack in a recorded public appearance in Turkey.
“As a result of this action [the kidnapping and killing of the Israeli teens], 20 Palestinians were killed and [Palestinian teenager] Muhammad Abu Khdeir was burnt alive. Their purpose is to destroy the West Bank and create a state of anarchy to orchestrate a coup against us. Hamas wants to drive me crazy,” Abbas told Sheikh Tamim, shortly before a Hamas delegation headed by political chief Khaled Mashaal entered the room.
‘In 2006 they planted explosives on the road. They wanted to blow me up. They also dug a tunnel under my home in Gaza. Here is a CD with everything taped,’ Abbas was reported as saying
The Palestinian leader went on to accuse Hamas of colluding with deposed Fatah official Mohammad Dahlan, now living in exile in Dubai, to overthrow him, using funding from the United Arab Emirates. The coordinator between Hamas and Dahlan, Abbas charged, was the son of slain Hamas leader Nizar Rayan.
“Why cooperate with Mohammed Dahlan? Hamas is ill-intentioned. I cannot work with them in such a way, and I do not want to remain their cover. My experience with them says they cannot be trusted. Even during the negotiations [with Israel in Cairo] they told the Fatah delegation: ‘We want partnership, but you are heretics to us. We are the ones representing Islam’.”
While eventually admitting to its involvement in the kidnapping of the Israeli teenagers, the Hamas delegation denied collaborating with Dahlan against the PA. “Do you still believe that story? Those are your internal feuds,” charged Hamas deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouk, before being silenced by a furious Abbas: “Don’t cut me off and don’t provoke me, Abu Omar.”
Qatari Sheikh Tamim played the role of mediator between the warring sides, proposing that Abbas either put the story behind him immediately or appoint an independent committee of inquiry to investigate the “suspect” Israeli allegations. Hamas readily agreed to the Qatari offer while Abbas brushed it off.
“I cannot answer your excellency now because I’m upset,” Abbas said according to the minutes. “I cannot say the matter is finished. I want answers. We [Hamas and Fatah] agreed on popular resistance and on elections, and they [Hamas] went ahead and started a war in 2012 which we had nothing to do with. How? Why?”
Meanwhile, with regards to Israel, Abbas said that he demanded that Israel and the US agree in writing to a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital, and then begin demarcating the borders within a set time-frame. If Israel refuses, Abbas added, the PA will halt its security coordination with it and ask Israel to reclaim responsibility for the West Bank “as an occupying state.”
Neither Fatah nor Hamas denied the report in Al-Akhbar.