Hamas could field PA presidential candidate

Official says organization has its eye on Palestinian legislative and national councils

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Gazans waving Hamas flags at a rally on Monday, April 14, 2014. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Gazans waving Hamas flags at a rally on Monday, April 14, 2014. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

A Hamas official said Tuesday that the organization intends to either field its own candidate in the planned Palestinian presidential elections, or throw its weight behind one of the other contenders.

Hamas lawmaker Khalil Haya said that Hamas had already started making preparations for taking part in the elections for president of the Palestinian Authority.

Hamas also wishes to help decide the makeup of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Palestinian National Council in order to ensure that those bodies reflect the “true desires” of the Palestinian people, Haya explained.

The Gaza Strip-based Hamas last week signed a reconciliation deal with Fatah, the party headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The agreement aimed to bring an end to seven years of animosity between the two factions and called for the formation of an interim unity government within five weeks, with full elections to be held within six months.

Despite its intentions to challenge Abbas’s leadership, Haya stressed that Hamas would do everything required of it to make the reconciliation work and said he was optimistic that they two sides would succeed in sticking to the schedule.

If Hamas does offer its own candidate it will be the first time that the organization has done so in elections for the Palestinian leadership.

The inclusion of Hamas in a Palestinian government has raised concerns in Israel and the US, both of which consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

Israel has said outright that it has no intention of negotiating or dealing with a government that counts Hamas among its members, while US lawmakers and officials warned Tuesday that Palestinian leaders risk forfeiting millions of dollars in US aid if they press ahead with plans to form a unity government including members of Hamas.

“Let me be utterly clear about our policy toward Hamas,” Assistant Secretary for the Near East Anne Patterson told a House. “No US governmental money will go into any government that includes Hamas until Hamas accepts the Quartet conditions. And that’s renouncing violence, recognizing previous agreements and most explicitly recognizing Israel’s right to exist.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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