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Why Hamas Wants To Join the PLO


Khaled Abu Toameh

Hamas’s decision to join the PLO is seen by some Western analysts and governments as a sign that the Islamist movement is headed toward “moderation” and “pragmatism.”

But in 2012, if the agreement with Abbas is implemented, Hamas will take control over the PLO.

Hamas is joining the PLO not because it has changed, but out of a desire to make the Fatah-dominated organization stick to its true mission: the liberation of Palestine from Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea — in other words, all the land that is currently Israel — and to achieve the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees to their original villages and homes inside Israel.

Once Hamas takes control over the PLO, it will seek to cancel all agreements and understandings reached between the organization and Israel, above all the 1993 Oslo Accords. Hamas also wants the PLO to withdraw its recognition of Israel.

Hamas leaders and spokesmen are openly saying that joining the PLO does not mean that they would recognize Israel’s right to exist or abandon the “armed struggle” against the Jewish state.

“Anyone who thinks that Hamas has, or will, change is living under an illusion,” declared Hamas representative Osama Hamdan.

Hamdan is one of several Hamas officials who have been trying in the past few days to explain to the world that his movement has not abandoned its radical ideology and will in fact continue to fight for the “liberation of all Palestine.”

But all these clarifications from the Hamas leaders regarding their true intentions seem to be falling on deaf ears in the West.

Some Western analysts have begun talking about the “new Hamas,” one which is about to accept the two state solution and abandon the “armed struggle” in favor of a peaceful and popular uprising against Israel.

Some European government officials are also ignoring the Hamas clarifications, insisting that the movement’s decision to join the PLO is an indication that it has abandoned its dream of replacing Israel with an Islamist state.

Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas’s agreement to incorporate Hamas [and other radical groups, such as the Islamic Jihad] into the PLO has left some of his top aides deeply worried about the future of the organization.

These aides are correctly concerned that the decision would facilitate Hamas’s takeover of the PLO.

Abbas, however, seems to see the rise of Islamists in the Arab world and is worried that the “Arab Spring” will soon arive in the West Bank — with or without him — so that he might as well be a part of its radicalization rather than have it happen despite him. He is also disappointed with Israel and the United States for refusing to comoly with all of his demands — the most important od which was Israel’s full withdrawal to the armistice lines of 1948, better known as the pre-’67 lines.

The agreement that was struck in Cairo last week calls for holding elections for the PLO’s two most important bodies: the Palestine National Council and the Executive Committee.

Hamas leaders are confident that their representatives will win the elections, turning the Islamist movement into the largest faction of the PLO.

The “Arab Spring,” which has brought Islamists to power in a number of Arab countries, and the recent prisoner exchange agreement with Israel, have only bolstered Hamas’s stature among Palestinians.

A top Fatah official this week voiced concern over Abbas’s invitation to Hamas to join the PLO: “Abbas is paving the way for Hamas to take control not only over the PLO, but the entire West Bank as well,” he said.

Further, Hamas is being integrated into the PLO without having to make any concessions.

The Islamist movement is not being asked to accept the PLO’s strategy of conducting peace talks with Israel. Nor is it being asked to honor all agreements signed between the PLO and Israel. Even worse, Hamas is not being asked to renounce violence as a precondition for joining the PLO.

In 2006, Hamas won a free and fair parliamentary election. A year later, the movement took full control over the Gaza Strip after forcebly exiling the Palestinian Authority, throwing its members off the roofs of buildings.

Those who think that Abbas’s invitation to Hamas to join the PLO is a positive step for the peace process are deluding themselves. Hamas, according to its leaders, is joining the PLO because it wants to “liberate Palestine from the river to the sea,” and not because it is interested in becoming part of the peace process.

But in the West, most analysts do not want to hear what Hamas says in Arabic.

About the Author: Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades.


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