Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview broadcast Monday that he has the authority to remove the newly elected Hamas government from power, and he warned the government it had little choice but to negotiate with Israel.
“The constitution gives me clear and definite authority to remove a government from power, but I don’t want to use this authority. Everyone should know that by law this power is in my hands,” Abbas said in an interview with CNN-Turk that was recorded before he arrived in Turkey on Sunday.
Asked about the possibility of Abbas bringing down the Hamas government, a senior Hamas official in the West Bank said the group would “not leave in silence” and threatened to stop recognizing a truce with Israel.
“We will go, but we will not recognize the Palestinian political regime. We will not participate in any new election and we will go underground as we did before and we will not adhere to any commitments, any truce, by anyone. Being ousted from power will have a heavy price for everyone. We hope not to reach that.”
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.
A spokesman for the Hamas-led government, Ghazi Hamad, added that Abbas should not have made such a statement at an early point in the tenure of the new government.
“We expect from President Abbas to protect his government and not to make such declarations,” Hamad said in an interview from Gaza city.
Abbas also said that Hamas had to face the facts and negotiate with Israel or the Palestinian people would be left to starve after the United States and European Union cut funding because of Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel or renounce violence.
“Hamas has to face the facts and establish communication with Israel,” he said. “I’m worried that the situation will turn into a tragedy in the near future. A short time later, we could be up against a great hunger disaster in Palestine.”
“Without help we can’t stand on our feet long,” he added. Abbas spoke during the interview in both Arabic and English and the interview was broadcast with a voice-over in Turkish. CNN-Turk provided The Associated Press with a full transcript of Abbas’ remarks translated into Turkish.
Vows referendum over Israel
Abbas said that he would work for a solution with or without Hamas.
“Hamas can support me or not. When I find a way to a solution with Israel, I’ll present this to the Palestinian people in a referendum. The Palestinian people are above Hamas and other politicians,” he said.
Abbas was in Turkey as part of a tour that is expected to also take him to Norway, Finland and France.
Earlier this month, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the EU for cutting off direct financial support to the Palestinian government and said abandoning the policy would contribute to Middle East peace. Abbas is scheduled to meet with Erdogan on Tuesday.
Hamas, which won the Jan. 25 Palestinian legislative elections, is on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations, a designation that bars EU officials from any dealings with the group.