Hamas: The Road to Ramallah goes though the PLO

Through the establishment of a 'shadow PLO', Hamas aspires to reject the legal-judicial basis which allows Abu Mazen to conduct negotiations with Israel. The struggle within the PLO is important to Israel in light of the issue of ratification of political agreements.

Even before Syria announced that it will not host the alternative summit to Annapolis, Hamas and other movements had decided to postpone it. According to reports, the 'resistance organizations' intended to use the summit to establish parallel institutions to the PLO. (YNET, 10/30/07).

Through the establishment of a 'shadow PLO', Hamas aspires to reject the legal-judicial basis which allows Abu Mazen to conduct negotiations with Israel.

What is the Issue?

Hamas' goals in the internal Palestinian arena - Hamas aspires to control the Palestinian National Movement in its entirety. To do this, Hamas is trying to remove Fatah from its leading position in the PLO, which is recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

However, the PLO, unlike the Palestinian Authority, has no mechanism for elections, and thus Hamas' entrance into the PLO depends on Fatah's agreement.

Since Hamas' takeover of Gaza, Fatah has no intention of allowing Hamas to gain a foothold in the PLO. Therefore, it seems that Hamas aspires to carry out a 'revolution' within the PLO by gaining control of its parliament, the Palestinian National Council (PNC).

  • It seems that Hamas is working to convince members of the PNC to assemble the Council, where Fatah has only a relative majority. This is the background to the meetings last week between representatives of Hamas, the 'Popular Front' and 'Democratic Front'.

  • Hamas could claim that it is acting according to the Cairo (3/05) and Mecca Agreements (2/07) (to which Fatah was a party) which determined that the makeup of the PLO should be revised to include representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other organizations.

Hamas' political agenda - In the past, the bar Hamas leaders set for a political agreement was very high. This included the establishment of a Palestinian State in 1967 borders and the right of return, as an interim agreement. Hamas rejects the establishment of Israel and therefore rejects the principle of a Permanent Status Agreement that would achieve an 'End of Conflict' and 'Finality of Claims.'

In the Mecca Agreement (2/07), Hamas agreed that Abu Mazen could negotiate with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians in light of his position as Chairman of the PLO, after the creation of a 'new PLO' that would include Hamas and other Palestinian resistance groups.

However, due to Hamas' ideology and its aspirations in the Palestinian political arena, the success of negotiations between Israel and the PLO, in its current composition, is a threat to the movement.

Sources in Hamas believe that it is preferable for the movement to allow negotiations to 'fail on their own' in order to prove to the Palestinian public the futility of Fatah's policies. Thus, Hamas will only adopt terror tactics to thwart the political process if negotiations seem to be heading towards an agreement.

Why is this Important? Why Now?

The struggle within the PLO is important to Israel in light of the issue of ratification of political agreements:

  • Abu Mazen committed to bringing any agreement to a referendum in the West Bank, Gaza and the diaspora or to a vote in the PNC (Ma'an 10/30/07).

  • However, Hamas' control over Gaza and the physical dispersal of the Palestinian population in the 'host states', suggests that the only option for Abu Mazen is ratifying the agreement in the PNC.

The failure to ratify an agreement with Israel or a decision by the PNC to discontinue talks with Israel, would constitute a clear failure of the political process and a rejection of the legal-judicial basis on which Abu Mazen is negotiating with Israel.

Such a failure is likely to have far reaching consequences including: a mortal blow to the Two State Solution, the Hamas control over the Palestinian National Movement, and even threatening the existence of the PA.