So Al Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper, obtained and published the minutes of a meeting between the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas Chairman Khaled Meshaal and their respective entourages. The meeting took place on August 21.
Abbas met with bin Hamad first. At this meeting, he laid out the two most pressing issues as he sees them. The first was to do with Israel, America, and the negotiations. He recounted a brief overview of what has happened recently and blamed Israeli and American foot-dragging and failure to commit to concrete steps as the cause of the breakdown in talks. He said that he offered the following conditions to the Americans: There must be a written agreement to have a Palestinian state on 1967 borders (i.e. the West Bank and Gaza) with East Jerusalem as the capital which would be followed by negotiations over the exact borders over a period of 2-3 months after which other issues can be negotiated. He stated that if these conditions are not met, then he would stop “security” cooperation with Israel and would dissolve the PA and give the reins back to Israel.
The second issue was Hamas. He claimed that despite the national unity agreement, Hamas was still plotting against him in cooperation with former Fateh leader Mohammad Dahlan. He cited a meeting with the head of the Shin Bet, Israeli’s domestic spy organization, where he was warned that Hamas was plotting his overthrow with a man named “Jawad” in Amman, Jordan who reports to a Hamas leader in Turkey named Saleh al Arouri. He also cited video and audio evidence that his own intelligence had collected in which Hamas members were heard talking about a bomb to be used against him.
He then went on to talk about his history with Hamas. Much of it was actually completely false. For example, he portrayed the 2007 infighting between Hamas and Fateh that led to the division between Gaza and the West Bank as a backstabbing by Hamas after both sides had made an agreement in Mecca two months earlier. In reality, as later emerged in a Vanity Fair expose, Hamas acted preemptively because Fateh had made a deal with the Americans and Israelis to overthrow the elected Hamas government. Fateh’s coup attempt was led by none other than Mohammad Dahlan with whom Abbas now claims Hamas is collaborating against him. He also claimed — repeatedly throughout the meeting — that Hamas beat his Minister of Health almost to death when he visited Gaza recently. What actually happened was protesters angry over the PA’s inaction to protect them pelted him and his entourage with rocks and eggs when he attempted to visit al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Contrary to Abbas’s assertions, no one was injured. He also accused Hamas of conducting the kidnapping-murder of the three Israeli settlers and cited Saleh al Arouri (the guy behind the alleged plot against him) taking credit for it. However, al Arouri’s claims are not credible at face value and hint at personal motivations or at worst a power struggle inside Hamas.
At this point, the Hamas delegation led by Khaled Meshaal joined the meeting. Abbas repeated everything he said to bin Hamad. Meshaal and other Hamas leaders strongly denied the allegations against them, including the kidnapping-murder which Meshaal said neither al Arouri nor any other Hamas official knew about. They further accused Abbas of believing too easily the tales Israelis were weaving for him (in reference to information passed on to him by the Shin Bet head regarding a Hamas coup plot).
They then started arguing over who was to blame for the 2007 infighting, at which point Bin Hamad who was clearly getting frustrated with the back and forth butted in and gave both sides two options: 1) Forget about past events and abandon the mutual incriminations in order to move forward with the national unity government; or 2) Set up an independent commission to investigate the claims. Bin Hamad made clear that his preference was for the first option because there was no time for the second. Abbas, however, stated that this was not a matter of past events but that Hamas was plotting against him in the present. In response, Meshaal stated that he was unwilling to work with someone who did not trust him and that if an independent commission is what it would take to put the matter to rest than he was willing to open up all of Hamas’s records. There was more back and forth, in which bin Hamad kept repeating the two options, when finally Abbas stated that he was too angry to make decision, so bin Hamad suggested the meeting be adjourned to a later time so that Abbas could calm down and they could work through the issues.
At this point the meeting ends, but the minutes have an addendum of bullet points summarizing the entire meeting. One bullet point states that although Abbas’s delegation stood by him, they were visibly unhappy with his introducing unnecessary issues (in reference to the argument over 2007 and whether Hamas members were good Muslims or not). Another bullet point contrasted the conduct of Meshaal, who listened to what Abbas said, with that of his delegation who repeatedly interrupted him. A third stated that a Hamas official denied in a private conversation all of Abbas’s accusations and was looking forward to the second meeting so that they could allow the head of PA intelligence division to speak as Abbas had refused to allow this during this meeting. The Hamas official stated that everything the intelligence had previously told Hamas representatives directly contradicted what Abbas said and that he had further told them that the head of Palestinian “security” coordination had purposely passed on Israeli lies as truth to keep the pressure on Abbas.
All in all, this meeting was an embarrassing mess. Abbas comes off as a paranoid buffoon who does not recognize that he is nothing more than an agent of the Israeli occupation. Here’s hoping that he holds true to his word and dissolves the PA and hands over all authority back to the Israelis. At the very least, it would save the Palestinian people from being represented by such incompetent fools.