Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO on 15 December, 2023

US Leaves Open Possibility of Hamas Keeping Power as Ramallah Throws Lifeline

Public By Akiva Van Konigsveld • 15 December, 2023

Jerusalem, 15 December, 2023 (TPS) -- The U.S. State Department on Thursday refused to rule out the possibility of the Hamas terrorist organization retaining power or joining a Palestinian Authority-led governing body for the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria.

“We have been clear about our position on Hamas, which the United States designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 due to its premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets,” a U.S. government spokesperson told the Tazpit Press Service.

However, “Palestinians’ voices and aspirations must be at the center of post-crisis governance in Gaza, unified with the West Bank under the P.A.,” the spokesperson said, adding, “Ultimately, the future of Palestinian leadership is a question for the Palestinian people.

“We remain committed to working with the P.A. and Palestinian leadership on the critical work of strengthening Palestinian institutions … and reinforcing commitments to nonviolence and countering terrorism,” concluded the official.

On Nov. 8, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Gaza must be handed over to the P.A. once Israel’s operation there ends. The solution “must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the P.A.,” stated Blinken.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby added that Washington seeks to back an authority that “has the support of all Palestinians so that they can effectively help with post-conflict governance, particularly in Gaza.”

Palestinian Polls Support Hamas

A poll published on Wednesday by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that a majority of Palestinians believe that Hamas is “the most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people today.”

When asked which entity should rule the Gaza Strip after the Israeli military operation ends, 60% of the respondents selected the Iran-backed terrorist group; 88% of Palestinians said Abbas needs to resign.

In a presidential runoff between Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader would receive 78% of the vote, with 51% of Palestinians saying they would vote for Hamas candidates if Abbas called a general election today.

In addition, two-thirds expressed opposition to the participation of the P.A. in meetings with the United States. Only 1% of those surveyed said they were satisfied with the role Washington has played in the conflict.

A separate survey released in November found that 89% of Palestinians support establishing a government that includes or is led by Hamas. Only around 8.5% said they favor an authority controlled exclusively by P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction.

The survey was conducted by the Ramallah-based Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD) research firm.

Almost all of the respondents, 98%, said the October 7 massacre made them feel “prouder of their identity as Palestinians,” with an equal percentage saying they would “never forget and never forgive” the Jewish state for its ongoing military operation against Hamas.

Ramallah’s Lifeline to Hamas

Speaking with Al Monitor in Doha on Monday, senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk said that the Islamist terror organization is “seeking to be a part of the PLO,” Abbas’s Palestine Liberation Organization, which controls the P.A.

On Thursday, Abu Marzouk clarified that “Hamas does not recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation and does not concede any of the rights of our Palestinian people. We confirm that the resistance will continue to liberation and return.”

The remarks came as Haniyeh said he was open to discussing “a ‘Palestinian home’ in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” leading to a “political path that secures the right of the Palestinian people to their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

P.A. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Dec. 8 that his preferred outcome of Gaza war would be for Hamas to join the Palestinian Authority as a junior partner to Fatah.

“If they are ready to come to an agreement, and really accept the political platform of the PLO, accept the tools of struggle, … there will be room for talks,” he told Bloomberg News, adding that “Palestinians should not be divided.”

Hamas is an “essential part of the Palestinian political mosaic” and Israel’s goal of eliminating the terrorist group is “unacceptable” to the Western-backed P.A., Shtayyeh declared this week.

Shtayyeh has consistently refused to condemn Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks, claiming the conflict didn’t begin on that date and Israeli officials have failed to speak out against “things done by their citizens.”

At least 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on Oct. 7. The number of men, women, children, soldiers and foreigners held captive in Gaza by Hamas is now believed to be 132. Other people remain unaccounted for as Israeli authorities continue to identify bodies and search for human remains.