JERUSALEM – In a move that could have monumental ramifications, the Hamas terrorist organization is quietly working to create its own Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO, to compete with the well-known group of the same namesake headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to Hamas officials speaking to WND.
The effort is part of a larger expected Hamas campaign to de-legitimize Abbas after his term as PA president expires Jan. 9.
According to sources close to Abbas, of all the moves Hamas is planning, the PA figure is most worried about the creation of a second PLO to compete with the group he heads, which has long been dominated by his Fatah party.
The PLO has been recognized since the 1960s as the sole representative body of the Palestinian people and is the signatory of major agreements with Israel, including the 1993 Oslo Accords.
Hamas officials told WND their group is in the process of building a second PLO, which would be a grand coalition of major Palestinian groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command in Lebanon, and even part of the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which has until now leaned toward Fatah.
According to sources in Hamas, some members of Fatah, including Faruq Al-Khadumi, chief of the political bureau of the PLO, assisted in a recent meeting in which Hamas presented the possibility of creating a new PLO.
The original PLO was founded by late-Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian figures in 1964. It incorporates major Palestinian groups friendly to Fatah, including the PFLP.
The creation of a new PLO might be the final nail in Abbas’ political coffin after his term in office expires. Top Hamas officials told WND in recent interviews that their group, which won 2006 parliamentary elections, will no longer recognize Abbas after Jan. 9.
“At midnight on the 10th, we are removing all of Abu Mazen’s (Abbas’) pictures from official buildings and institutions throughout the Gaza Strip,” Mahmoud al-Zahar, chief of Hamas in Gaza, told WND.
“Do you believe in democracy? If you do then you will accept that Abbas will no longer be the president. Legally, the leadership of the PA falls to us until new elections are held,” al-Zahar said, speaking by cell phone from Gaza.
Abbas has said he will take advantage of a law whereby he can declare emergency rule and remain PA president until early 2010.
A new poll published by the Western-oriented Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research and released earlier this month showed 64 percent of Palestinians believe Abbas’ term should not be prolonged. Only 24 percent believe he should remain in office.
The polls seem to reflect larger trends within Palestinian society that are likely deeply troubling for Abbas. During the 2006 elections, Hamas not only won two-thirds of the vote, but the terror group swept the vote in important so-called refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria, in spite of Fatah’s strong presence there. The numbers proved Hamas has major support in the camps, which could be instrumental in its plans to establish another PLO.
The move could have major ramifications for U.S. and Israeli policy. Both countries consider Fatah to be moderate and have engaged in talks seeking to create a Fatah-led Palestinian state. As well, since most major Israeli-Palestinian agreements are signed by the PLO, the creation of a new organization could signal the end of Palestinian responsibility to the agreements if a second PLO indeed takes off.
Meanwhile, Abbas has successfully enlisted the help of Egypt in slowing down the emergence of a new PLO.
According to officials in Hamas speaking to WND, the group originally planned to debut the competing PLO before January. But, the officials said, Egypt last month pressed Syria to petition Hamas to halt their efforts for the time being, pending the outcome of political uncertainty after Abbas’ term expires. The Hamas officials said they will wait until at least January.