Hamas said Saturday it would not participate in a meeting of Palestinian leaders to debate responses to the controversial US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The terror group’s decision not to take part in the meeting set to begin late Sunday is a further setback to failing reconciliation efforts between leading Palestinian factions.
“We have taken the decision not to participate in the meeting of the [Palestinian] Central Council in Ramallah,” Hamas said in a statement, but stressed its “commitment to the unity of our people.”
“The conditions under which the committee will be held will not enable it to carry out a comprehensive and responsible political review, and will prevent decisions that reach the level of our aspirations,” the statement said.
The two-day meeting will bring together the heads of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian terror group, were invited to attend despite not being part of the PLO. Islamic Jihad has also announced it would not take part.
Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, had been pushing for the meeting to be held outside the Palestinian territories, but Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decided instead to host it in Ramallah — the base of his government in the West Bank.
The Hamas statement said this left them subject to the “pressures” of Israel, which controls the West Bank and regularly arrests Hamas officials.
The meeting is due to discuss responses to US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The decision infuriated Palestinian leaders, who see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
The Trump administration has also not publicly committed to the idea of an independent Palestinian state, and briefly threatened the PLO office in Washington with closure in November.
Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party signed a reconciliation agreement in October that was meant to see the Islamists hand over control of Gaza by the end of 2017.
The talks have broken down however, with disputes over the fate of tens of thousands of Hamas civil servants and the future of Hamas’s vast armed wing.
Hamas seized Gaza in 2007, forcing out Abbas’s forces in a near civil war. It has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.
Last week the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat reported that a senior Hamas official in Ramallah said the terror group would agree to disarm if it can gain PLO representation and join the government.
There was no official confirmation of the report.