|When Western countries met last month to pledge billions of dollars in funding to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, they stressed that Hamas would not receive funding until it recognized Israel. However, a senior Fatah leader, Muhammad Dahlan, admitted yesterday on Palestinian Authority television that Fatah - just like Hamas - still does not recognize Israel.
Furthermore, he said that the Palestinian Authority's apparent "recognition" is meant to render the PA "acceptable" to the international community, and thereby allow it to continue to receive international aid:
"I want to say for the thousandth time, in my own name and in the name of all of my fellow members of the Fatah movement: We do not demand that the Hamas movement recognize Israel. On the contrary, we demand of the Hamas movement not to recognize Israel, because the Fatah movement does not recognize Israel, even today."
It is only the Palestinian Authority government, Dahlan insisted, that must "recognize" Israel - not out of conviction or sincerity, but in order to receive the help that it seeks from the international community. This help would not come, says Dahlan, if the PA government did not "recognize" Israel.
The inherent contradiction between the Fatah, headed by "Chairman" Mahmoud Abbas, not recognizing Israel, and the Palestinian Authority, headed by "President" Mahmoud Abbas, "recognizing" Israel, was not challenged by the interviewer.
Dahlan's statement reflects not only his own personal view, but apparently the official PA ideology. It is nearly identical to the 2006 declaration made by Mahmoud Abbas himself that while PA ministers have to "recognize" Israeli ministers across a negotiating table, for functional purposes, this does not imply political recognition by Fatah of Israel:
"Hamas is not required to recognize Israel... It is not required of Hamas, or of Fatah, or of the Popular Front, to recognize Israel."
The following are the two declarations - yesterday's by Dahlan and the earlier one by Abbas - that Fatah does not recognize Israel.
Interview with Muhammad Dahlan, PA TV March 16, 2009:
Dahlan: "There are many distortions that the Hamas movement tries to attribute to us [Fatah]. For instance, they always say that the Fatah movement wants Hamas to recognize Israel. This is a gross deception. And I want to say for the thousandth time, in my own name and in the name of all of my fellow members of the Fatah movement: We do not demand that the Hamas movement recognize Israel. On the contrary, we demand of the Hamas movement not to recognize Israel, because the Fatah movement does not recognize Israel, even today. [...] Therefore, no one can compete with us. We of the Fatah do not recognize Israel; we recognized [corrects himself] recognize that which the PLO recognized, but that does not obligate us as a Palestinian resistance faction.
It is not being demanded of Hamas that it recognize Israel. The government must deal with people's problems... The entire Palestinian economy is dependent on Israel. The government's role is to manage the day-to-day life of the Palestinian people. I cannot force my thinking and my position [non-recognition of Israel] on the government, and then [were I to do so] - should the Palestinian people pay the price for this position? No. I maintain the position of the Hamas and of the Fatah not to recognize Israel, but the government is required to offer medical treatment, to make education easier and take care of it. It must carry out reconstruction. Do you imagine that Gaza's reconstruction is possible under the shadow of this political bickering between us and the international community?"
Moderator: "Why must the new government recognize the PLO's commitments?"
Dahlan: "It's not the political parties [that must recognize]; it's required of the government and not of the parties. It's required of the government but not of Hamas; it's required of the government but not of the Fatah, so that this government will be able to offer the necessary assistance, to carry out the necessary reconstruction, to offer assistance to the sick, to bring relief to needy families... This can be dealt with [only] by a government that has relations with the international community, one that is acceptable to the international community, in order that we can work together and benefit from the international community."
The following interview with Mahmoud Abbas was broadcast on Al-Arabiya [based in Dubai] and Palestinian TV on Oct. 3, 2006:
The host is discussing with Mahmoud Abbas the rift between Hamas and Fatah preventing the establishing of a Palestinian unity government.
Host: "But maybe Hamas is right regarding the fact that it does not want to recognize Israel."
Abbas [snaps]: "Hamas is not required, Hamas is not required to recognize Israel... It is not required of Hamas, or of Fatah, or of the Popular Front to recognize Israel, all right?
"The PLO, in 1993, recognized Israel. As Israel recognized the PLO. Every person has the right to say 'I do not recognize,' okay? It's your right. It is the right of every organization. But the government which will be formed, and which will function opposite the Israelis on a daily basis... every hour and perhaps every second - there will be contact between Palestinian ministers and Israeli ministers. And I ask - how can this government, or these ministers, not recognize their counterparts, and then solve people's problems?" [Abbas then gives an example of $500 million in taxes intended for the Palestinians, but put on hold by Israelis. The Palestinian finance minister has to come to an agreement with the Israeli finance minister regarding the transfer of that money.] "So how can he make an agreement with him if he does not recognize him?"
"So I do not demand of Hamas nor any other [organizations] to recognize Israel. But from the government that works with Israelis in day to day life, yes."