Salah Bardawil, a senior member of Hamas’s political bureau, claimed Wednesday night that Palestinian reconciliation efforts were failing due to American pressure.
His comments came as 13 Palestinian factions — headed by Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and Hamas, the terror group that rules the Gaza — released a declaration calling for legislative and presidential elections by the end of 2018.
Bardawil, in a video of a conversation that took place in a hotel lobby in Cairo, where talks between the Palestinian factions took place, called the declaration “lackluster,” and said it was “vague and not applicable in the foreseeable future.”
The video (Arabic) was posted on Fatah’s official Facebook page.
The declaration does not say the Palestinian factions agreed to elections, but merely “calls” for elections. Palestinians haven’t had presidential elections since 2005 and legislative elections since 2006, when Hamas won.
Wednesday’s declaration was part of reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas that began last month.
During the previous round of talks in Cairo, Hamas agreed to allow the PA to retake governmental control of the Gaza Strip, which is supposed to happen by December 1.
“We hoped that today would be the culmination of previous meetings… but unfortunately US pressure on the PA has prevented it,” Bardawil said. “It’s clear there is a denial of and an evasion of what we’ve agreed on, and so we’ve arrived at this lackluster result.”
Bardawil went on to claim that the head of PA intelligence, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s right-hand man Majed Faraj, had admitted during the talks that American pressure was holding Fatah back from the reconciliation process.
“American pressure succeeded in pushing the PA to retreat from reconciliation issues. Majid Faraj informed us that they are unable to move forward with the reconciliation due to American pressure,” he said.
Wednesday’s declaration did not deal explicitly with what many consider the most difficult obstacle facing the reconciliation process: the fate of Hamas’s 25,000-strong military wing.
Bardawil claimed in the video that “no one dared talk about the weapons of the resistance.”
Abbas wants the PA to be in full control of all weapons and security in the Gaza Strip, but Hamas is refusing to give up its arsenal. Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Israel, has fought three wars with Israel since seizing power from Fatah in the enclave in 2007.
Bardawil’s statements quickly spread on Palestinian media, and Fatah rushed to issue a statement denying Faraj had ever made claims about American pressure hindering reconciliation.
“Bardawil’s statements are unfounded and are only propaganda aimed at evading the dues of reconciliation. Majed Faraj did not issue such statements as Bardawil claims,” the Fatah statement said.
The Fatah statement added that reconciliation requires “patience.”
Bardawil later released a second video, claiming that he thought he was having a private conversation rather than a media interview. He also apologized for using “emotional language that was far from diplomatic and political language.”
Bardawil, however, did not retract his remarks about what he claimed Faraj had said about American pressure.