Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya has been invited to attend a summit of the Non-Aligned movement in Iran.
This enraged members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) who run a parallel government in the West Bank, alongside Haniya’s government in Gaza.
Palestinian state news agency WAFA reported PLO Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (Haniya’s double in the West Bank) as saying the invitation represents “a blow to one of the most prominent achievements of the Palestinian people, namely the oneness of Palestinian representation.” Fayyad went on to appeal to Haniya to reject the invitation in the name of Palestinian unity.
Haniya has not stated whether or not he will attend the summit.
Ahmed Majdalani, a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, told WAFA that Tehran’s invitation to Haniya was part of a consistent pattern in which Tehran is attempting to sow discord between the divided Palestinian leadership.
Just this weekend, the two Palestinian leaders spoke on the phone for Eid al-Fitr. The Palestinian National Authority’s Information Office reported that the conversation centred on a commitment to “national unity in order to accomplish the Palestinian nation’s goals of freedom and independence.”
Haniya has been to Tehran once before in February this year. Iran has always backed Hamas, first when they were exclusively a militia and now that they have a political wing that won legislative elections in 2006.
The February trip followed an agreement between Hamas and Fatah to form a unified consensus government during a meeting in Cairo. Both sides agreed that “the Legislative, Presidential, and the Palestinian National Council elections will be conducted at the same time exactly one year after the signing of the Palestinian National Reconciliation Agreement.”
However, in August 2011 Abbas issued a unilateral Presidential Decree that postponed elections saying the “appropriate environment” did not exist to achieve a unity government. A year since that decree was issued, there have been no new calls for legislative elections.
A proposed solution to the Palestinian electoral deadlock came from an unusual place last week: Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. According to AFP, Lieberman sent the international “Quartet” of peace negotiators a letter saying, “the time has come to consider a creative solution, to think ‘outside the box,’ in order to strengthen the Palestinian leadership. General elections in the PA should be held, and a new, legitimate, hopefully realistic Palestinian leadership should be elected.”