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Friday, May 13, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Report: Abbas sought Hamas protection through 'marriage of convenience'

JERUSALEM — Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has sought Hamas protection ahead of his decision to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank this year, a report said.


The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies said Abbas wanted an alliance with Hamas to shield him from accusations that he betrayed the Palestinian cause. The report, authored by a leading Israeli analyst, Mordechai Kedar, said Abbas plans to become president of a Palestinian state by September that would, in effect, concede on the right of return as well as additional territory.

"This situation would be intolerable for Abbas as it would create too wide a disparity between his favorable international status and his domestic status as a 'traitor,' " the report, titled "Hamas and Fatah: A Temporary Marriage of Convenience," said. "He requires backup in order to silence his worst critics, i.e., Hamas."

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Kedar, a retired senior Israeli military intelligence officer and a specialist on Arab affairs, said the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal announced in April 2011 was meant to facilitate international recognition of any Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He said both Fatah and Hamas were acting "on the basis of expediency."

"In fact, the appearance of unity and the accolades for achieving it are of more significance than unity itself," the report, released on May 12, said. "Their differing worldviews have not diminished over the years of severance, accusations and defamations."

The report said Abbas was ready to risk an Islamic victory in any election in 2012. Abbas, whose plan to visit the Gaza Strip has been rebuffed by Hamas, was said to be intent on establishing "a temporary state of calm in his backyard."

"This is what he aims to achieve through the agreement with Hamas," the report said.

The report said Hamas signed the reconciliation accord amid its failure to improve the regime's standing in the international community. Hamas was said to be concerned that the Palestine Liberation Organization would be recognized as the rulers of the new Palestinian state.

"The recent agreement, therefore, is favorable to Hamas as it enables both groups to share the steering wheel: Abbas with his foot on the gas and Hamas riding the brakes," the report said.

Still, the test of the agreement would focus on control of Palestinian security forces. In the first stage, Hamas would continue to rule the Gaza Strip while Fatah retains power in the West Bank.

"Nevertheless, Hamas' security apparatus, led by the Izzedin Kassam Brigades, will never give in to the PLO agenda," the report said. "The armed wing of the PLO, as well, will not consider, even for a moment, abiding by demands dictated by anyone from the Hamas camp."

Kedar said Hamas wielded greater grassroot support than Fatah. While Fatah was regarded as part of the foreign-based elite, Hamas has established a significant presence in the refugee camps as well as within the lower Bedouin community.

"Despite the agreement, PLO-Hamas relations will continue to be ridden with suspicions from both sides," the report said. "Hamas will constantly suspect Abbas of flirting with the United States, Europe and Israel, while Abbas will always be on the lookout for Hamas attempts to recruit members of his own camp. When the time comes to divide up the bearskin — perhaps after international recognition, if this takes place of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza — the deep-seated divisions between Hamas and Fatah will again come to the fore."

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