Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post
February 21, 2013 - 1:00am

Fatah officials expressed outrage on Wednesday over reports that Hamas and Israel are conducting indirect talks in Cairo.

According to the reports, Israeli and Hamas officials who arrived in Cairo recently have been holding indirect talks about consolidating the current cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, which has been in effect since Operation Pillar of Defense ended in November.

Jamal Muheissen, member of the Fatah Central Committee, said the talks Hamas has been conducting with Israel are “unacceptable.”

Muheissen said that only the PLO was authorized to conduct such negotiations in its capacity as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”

He pointed out that the negotiations that Hamas conducted with Israel over the release of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit have led to the rearrest by the IDF of several Palestinian prisoners who were released in the prisoner swap.

The Fatah official also criticized Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi for acting as a mediator between Israel and Hamas. Muheissen accused Morsi of seeking to undermine the PLO’s status as the sole representative of the Palestinians. Muheissen claimed that Morsi was trying to “tame” Hamas and has not briefed Fatah on the outcome of the indirect talks with Israel in Cairo, he added.

Abdullah Abdullah, another senior Fatah official, also denounced Hamas for holding indirect negotiations with Israel. He too said that the PLO was the only party authorized to conduct negotiations on behalf of the Palestinians.

Abdullah claimed that the indirect talks between Hamas and Israel were the reason behind the failure of the latest effort to achieve reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. He also expressed fear that Hamas was aiming through the indirect talks at establishing a separate Palestinian entity in the Gaza Strip.

Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf said that the indirect talks between Israel and Hamas were “very dangerous” and would have “catastrophic consequences” on the Palestinians.

“What is Hamas negotiating with Israel about?” he asked. “And who authorized Hamas to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people?” Assaf also said he believes that the reconciliation talks with Hamas had failed because of the “secret talks in Cairo.”

Hamas, for its part, defended the indirect talks with Israel, saying the discussions were focusing only on “humanitarian issues.”

Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said that the Cairo talks dealt with the reopening of the crossing borders in the Gaza Strip, the cease-fire and the hunger-strike of Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

“We are not negotiating about core issues like lands and Jerusalem,” Zahar said.

“We are only negotiating about humanitarian issues that would end the suffering of our prisoners.”


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