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Hamas-Fatah Relations Chill Amid Boycott

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

NORRIS: And I'm Michele Norris. The new Hamas government has been in charge in the West Bank in Gaza for just over a month and it's under intense financial and diplomatic pressure. There are also growing tensions between Hamas and its rival Fatah movement. Tensions that have already spilled over into violence. NPR's Linda Gradstein has more.

LINDA GRADSTEIN reporting:

At a Mayday rally in the West Bank town of Ramallah, many Palestinian workers said their situation is worse today than ever before. The salaries of some 160,000 public sector workers, teachers, policemen, government employees, haven't been paid in two months, since the international community announced a financial boycott of the new Hamas government. Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the political committee of Palestinian parliament says more than a million Palestinian's depend on these public sector salaries to live.

Mr. ABDULLAH ABDULLAH (Chairman, Political Committee Palestinian Parliament): And if the salaries are not paid then the corner store will not sell, then the taxicab will not work, and then the economic cycle stops all together. And we are on the brink of dissolution of the whole system.

GRADSTEIN: If that happens, he says, there could be chaos throughout the Palestinian territories. Abdullah is a high-ranking member of the Fatah movement, Hamas's main political rival and the big loser in January's Palestinian elections. He says he's concerned about growing tensions between Hamas and Fatah, especially in Gaza. Last month clashes between the two groups left dozens wounded. Hamas then announced the formation of a new 3,000 strong police force in Gaza. Fatah promptly countered with its own new security organization.

Hamas officials say they too are concerned by the recent tensions between the two groups. Abdul Jabar Fuchaha(ph), a newly elected Hamas member of the Palestinian legislative council says Hamas is committed to talking with Fatah instead of fighting.

Mr. ABDUL JABAR FUCHAHA (Hamas, Palestinian Legislative Council): (Through translator) There is no way to sort out the disputes between Fatah and Hamas except through dialogue.

GRADSTEIN: It has not been an easy first month for the Hamas government. But Hamas officials, like Abdul Jabar Fuchaha, say the pressures, both from within the Palestinian territories and from the international community, were expected. Fuchaha insists the new government is coping. At the same time Fuchaha, one of the younger, more moderate members of Hamas, says he believes the group will eventually have to change its outlook. And he acknowledged that Hamas leaders are now discussing the possibility of indirectly recognizing Israel in hopes of meeting one of the key demands of the international community.

Mr. FUCHAHA: (Through translator) Now we can see that there are signs of, within Hamas to accept the Arab initiative which implicitly recognizes the state of Israel.

GRADSTEIN: That indicative, which came out of an Arab summit in 2002, calls for a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank Gaza in East Jerusalem in exchange for peace and Arab recognition.

Palestinians seem divided about how well they think the new Hamas government is doing. At an upscale Ramallah mall, Amfal and Abdul Ahman Aburas(ph) say they voted for Hamas and so far they think it's doing a good job. Abdul Ahman wants Hamas to stick to it principles.

Mr. ABDUL AHMAN ABURAS (Hamas supporter): (Through translator) Hamas will not surrender to all of the pressures on it. There are principles that Hamas will not relinquish.

GRADSTEIN: But other opinions are also heard here. Jamel Sadjadia(ph) is one of those Palestinian civil servants who haven't been paid in two months. To make some money he works part-time in a stationary store in the mall. He says Hamas must learn to be realistic.

Mr. JAMEL SADJADIA (Ramallah citizen): (Through translator) There is no way out for Hamas but to come out of this siege through recognition of Israel.

GRADSTEIN: Linda Gradstein, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linda Gradstein
Linda Gradstein has been the Israel correspondent for NPR since 1990. She is a member of the team that received the Overseas Press Club award for her coverage of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the team that received Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism for her coverage of the Gulf War. Linda spent 1998-9 as a Knight Journalist Fellow at Stanford University.
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