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Hamas Facing Opposition, Divisions

Prepared by: Esther Pan
Updated: March 23, 2006

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Hamas leaders have submitted their list of twenty-four proposed cabinet members to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, who is expected to approve the list in the coming days (BBC). About half the cabinet posts will go to Hamas members, with the other half filled by professionals and bureaucrats. The UK's Times Online profiles the members of the new Hamas cabinet and the Congressional Research Service examines the new Hamas leadership in this report (PDF).

The list comes after Abbas' Fatah party and other moderate parties rejected offers to join Hamas in a governing coalition. This week the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Palestinian people's representative at the United Nations largely composed of Fatah members, also rejected Hamas' proposed platform (NYT), reflecting internal Palestinian political tensions. Matthew Levitt, author of Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad, tells cfr.org's Bernard Gwertzman the group is unlikely to change its platform now that it's in government.

Hamas' task of asserting control over the PA is further complicated by ongoing violence between armed militias and the Palestinian security forces in Gaza (AP). Members of militias loyal to Fatah, which lost to Hamas in January's parliamentary elections, are demanding jobs in the security forces. The chaotic Palestinian security forces are profiled in this CFR Background Q&A. Palestinians are destroying crops they cannot bring to market because Israel has kept the Karni border crossing from Gaza mostly closed for the last two months. Israel says the closings are due to security concerns and claims the PA is refusing the use of another, smaller crossing point; the Palestinians charge Israel is trying to strangle the already ailing Palestinian economy (Haaretz).

The international community is still struggling with how to deal with the new Hamas government. Withholding aid could cause the state to fail and precipitate a humanitarian crisis, but few governments in the West, the main source of Palestinian funding, want to aid a group that will not renounce violence or recognize Israel. In February, the European Union gave the PA some $145 million in emergency funds (ABC) before Hamas took over, but it's unclear how—or if—future international aid money will be distributed.

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