The former spokesman for the Hamas government in Gaza said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ statements to the West are designed “to trick the Americans” and that his sympathies are more in line with the Hamas view opposing Israel’s right to exist.
Ihab al-Ghussein wrote on Facebook Sunday that Abbas in private meetings told Hamas officials that he has crafted his public statements recognizing Israel’s right to exist to dupe the U.S., according to a translation.
Within hours of its formation last week, the Obama administration announced it would work with the new Palestinian unity government backed by Hamas and the Abbas-headed Fatah party.
While Abbas has publicly insisted the government recognizes Israel’s right to exist, Hamas has stated it remains committed to the armed struggle against Israel and would continue to try to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
Palestinian Media Watch, a research organization that tracks incitement in the official Palestinian media, provided the translation of the former spokesman’s Facebook post: “You know what Mahmoud Abbas says behind closed doors?? He says: ‘Guys, let me [continue] saying what I say to the media. Those words are meant for the Americans and the occupation (i.e., Israel), not for you [Hamas]. What’s important is what we agree on among ourselves.”
“In other words, when I go out [publicly] and say that the government is my [Abbas] government and it recognizes ‘Israel’ and so on, fine – these words are meant to trick the Americans,” al-Ghussein posted, according to the translation. “The problem really isn’t with him [Abbas], the problem is with whoever believes him. Ha, Ha, Ha!”
Al-Ghussein referred to a previous case of alleged deception, saying that in 2006, Abbas said: “‘Don’t harp on everything I tell the media, forget about the statements in the media.’”
The U.S. State Department last week defended its willingness to work with the new unity government, describing it as “technocratic” in nature. Hamas is officially designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization.
In response, Israel’s ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer issued a rare public rebuke of the Obama administration, saying his government was “deeply disappointed” with the State Department’s announcement.
That criticism was echoed by Israeli Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, who branded the Obama administration’s decision as “breaking all records” for “naivete.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said last week that the U.S. would continue to work with the Palestinian government and would continue to fund the Palestinian Authority. Republican lawmakers criticized that approach and issued statements saying the $440 million in direct annual U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority should stop now that Hamas backs the unity government.
“Moving forward, we will be judging this government by its actions. Based on what we know now, we intend to work with this government, but we’ll be watching closely to ensure that it upholds the principles that President Abbas reiterated today,” Psaki said.