Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned Wednesday night that he will resign if the now-majority Hamas party makes it impossible for him to carry out his duties as president. President Abbas has stated that he wants peace negotiations with Israel to establish a Palestinian state and that Hamas will have to abide by these rules if it forms a government.
Abbas accepted there were difficulties posed by Hamas’ refusal to acknowledge Israel, saying in a television interview Sunday, "We could reach a point where I cannot perform my duty, then I will not continue sitting in this place, against and in spite of my convictions. If I can do something then I will continue, otherwise I won’t. From the beginning, I said … that if I fail I will resign".
Hamas’s landslide victory over Abbas’s Fatah faction in the 25 January Palestinian election paved the way for the group to form a new cabinet with Ismail Haniyya as the new Prime Minister. Despite their majority, Hamas leaders have said they want to form a national unity government with other factions including Mr Abbas’s Fatah faction.
Earlier Sunday, Israel’s acting foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, said that following Hamas’s electoral victory, President Abbas is already irrelevant. She told Israel Radio that Mr Abbas "can’t be a fig leaf for a terrorist authority." She said Hamas must recognize Israel and renounce terror, and Abbas "in this regard is not relevant".
Mr Abbas has many powers at his disposal to prevent Hamas from implementing policies to which he does not agree. He has a veto on all legislation which can only be overturned by a vote by two-thirds of the PLC. Hamas controls just over half the seats. He also controls part of the security forces and can fire the government if it does not follow his program.
Khaled Mashaal, a Hamas leader-in-exile based in Damascus, Syria, said his organisation hoped to have a working relationship with President Abbas. "We respect the [Palestinian] Authority and we are keen to cooperate and deal with [Abbas], but not if one party imposes its conditions on the other," he said.