Wednesday, September 14, 2005

 

Abbas aide says PA head will disarm resistance groups

Al-Jazeera reports that Rafiq Husseini, an aide to Mahmud Abbas, said that the PA President will be looking to disarm the militant groups in the Gaza Strip, starting with Fatah-affiliated groups and then including Hamas (and presumably others) after the January parliamentary elections.
"The groups within Fatah will be required to disarm and join the security services, or we will have to treat them as if they have violated the law," Husseini was quoted as saying by the Israeli daily, Haaretz.

"There is no longer an Israeli presence in Gaza, so bearing arms in the streets and the existence of militias are not justified. After January, Hamas will no longer need its weapons either," Husseini added.
Although it's not clear whether Husseini was referring only to Gaza and not the West Bank, it seems that if Abbas does attempt this, he will probably start in Gaza (it would probably be easier to justify to his own constituency, and he is also tasked by the U.S. and Israel with imposing sufficient order in Gaza to justify Israel considering pulling out of some areas of the West Bank). It's hard for me to imagine this actually happening. First of all, notice that this isn't Abbas talking, it's one of his aides. It would seem that Abbas may be testing out the waters to see what the public response is to this, but it would surely not help Fatah, especially leading up to January elections, and may well split it even further. As Arnon Regular notes in the Ha'aretz article, even starting with "Fatah-affiliated" groups will not be an easy task:
There are dozens of armed groups operating in the Gaza Strip under the name of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the military wing of Fatah, in addition to groups such as the Popular Resistance Committees and the Abu Rish Brigades, which claim they operate under the Fatah umbrella.
Leaving aside the fact that I personally don't think that the PRC claims to operate under the Fatah umbrella or views itself as a "Fatah" group, trying to negotiate with all these groups to disarm is going to be very difficult. None of these groups wants to feel singled out, forced to disarm as other groups maintain their arms, seeing defections to other groups that remain armed or resist disarming (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PRCs, etc). Abbas is really in a bad spot here, as he risks doing serious damage to an already hobbled Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip on the one hand, and doing serious damage to an already hobbled PA if he does not win some concessions from the U.S. and Israel on the other (and disarming Gaza militants is obviously in part an attempt to appeal to the U.S. and Israel).

Again, though, some comments from an aide are a far cry from concrete actions. Surely there will be a statement in response from Hamas and possibly some al-Aqsas Martyrs Brigades folks, but at this stage it's just words.

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