Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ parliamentary slate in Gaza, declared Wednesday that the new Hamas government will oppose a proposed transfer of authority of Palestinian Authority security forces to the direct control of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but will attempt to work with "dialogue and understanding" with Abbas.
In 2003, when Abbas was the Palestinian Prime Minister in the government of the late Palestinian President Yassar Arafat, he resigned temporarily over a similar issue.
Haniyeh had said in earlier statements that, "Hamas will cooperate with everybody for the benefit of all the people" in a government that will focus on "domestic affairs: poverty, unemployment, the Israeli occupation, internal security."
Abbas threatened to resign as President on January 30th, when it appeared that no agreement would be reached between Hamas and foreign powers, but he remains in power and has been meeting with various foreign leaders to determine his next steps.
Foreign financial support for the Palestinian Authority has been endangered by Hamas’ majority win in the Palestinian Parliamentary elections last week, with a number of countries threatening to withdraw aid unless Hamas renounces violence and recognizes Israel as a state. Youth groups in Abbas’ party, Fateh, also called for his resignation after the party’s electoral defeat, blaming Abbas and the ‘old guard’ of the party for the loss.
In an interview Wednesday morning with Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Hamas legislative head Ismail Haniyeh outlined the position of Hamas in relation to the Palestinian populace: "The people want to improve their situation, and they want an independent state, they want their rights. [To achieve this], we will use all available options. We will mobilize popular, pan-Arab, regional and international support.
We’re very optimistic. The occupation is gone from Gaza, and today they are talking about leaving a large part of the West Bank. These are steps on the way to realizing the Palestinian people’s rights. The situation is better than it was, and that is due to the armed resistance."
Hamas’ fear in turning over the security apparatus of the Palestinian Authority to the direct control of President Mahmoud Abbas is that Abbas will consider the security forces to be directly responsible to the interior minister, a position which Hamas cannot accept. Haniyeh stated, in regard to the Palestinian security forces, "We want the security services to operate with a Palestinian outlook, not to intervene in people’s affairs and in the citizenry’s daily lives. We intend to reform these organizations, but nobody will lose his salary or his position."
Although Haniyeh did not rule out the possibility of continued armed resistance to Israeli occupation, he expressed his hope that diplomacy be the preferred method of interaction with Israel. "I’m not talking about Qassams [homemade shells used by Hamas against Israeli targets], but about Palestinian rights. If calm will get us our rights, we’ll agree."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas took control of Palestinian security forces on Saturday, telling the officers that they were under his direct command, but Hamas, according to Haniyeh, sees this as only a temporary situation until they form a new government, including a re-configuration of security forces.