Tensions between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, following the abduction of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, have reached a critical lack of trust that threatens to dismantle the Palestinian unity government and delay the implementation of the sides' reconciliation pact.
The crisis, according to a senior source in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' bureau, began after Abbas ordered his security forces to increase cooperation with Israeli security forces to help locate the three missing teens. Hamas was outraged at the order and issued a statement saying, "It was treasonous to Palestinian interests and could even be a detriment to the implementation of the inner-Palestinian reconciliation accord, to the point of dismantling the fledgling unity government."
A senior Palestinian source confirmed to Israel Hayom that during the phone conversation between Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister presented Abbas with clear evidence of Hamas' involvement in the abduction, which was perpetrated with the knowledge and approval of senior political Hamas officials -- a matter that constitutes a clear violation of the inner-Palestinian reconciliation understandings.
"At the moment we are still confirming the degree of Hamas' and its senior officials' involvement in the abduction. If it becomes clear to us that it was done with the knowledge and approval of Hamas' senior political echelon, there will be no choice but to dismantle the unity government and postpone the inner-Palestinian reconciliation process," the senior PA source told Israel Hayom.
According to the same source, "The understandings with Hamas, which made it possible to create the unity government ... included commitments from Hamas not to undertake violence and terror. But the more evidence is collected, the more it appears that Hamas betrayed the trust it was given and that the organization exploited the reconciliation agreement to throw sand in our eyes and reopen its terrorist network in the West Bank, which harms not only Israel but also the Palestinian Authority."
The senior PA source emphasized that if it becomes evident beyond a doubt that Hamas is behind the abduction -- the unity government would be immediately disbanded. "We will act to confiscate and seize all Hamas assets in the West Bank," he said. The source also added that PA officials in Ramallah were considering closing down organizations and associations in the West Bank affiliated with Hamas, which were permitted to return and reopen due to the formation of the unity government.
Officials in Ramallah are concerned over mounting international pressure. "The incident raised the ire of the PA chairman after he received outraged responses from senior figures in the international community. They complained that while the Fatah-Hamas government was receiving international recognition, a kidnapping attack was being conducted against Israeli teenagers, allegedly ordered by Hamas, which is part of the Palestinian government that declared it opposes terror and recognizes Israel," one official said.
Hamas rejected the claims and denied any involvement in the kidnapping. Senior Hamas member Mushir al-Masri told Palestinian television that "the claims that Hamas is behind the abduction of the Israeli settlers is an Israeli fabrication intended to harm inner-Palestinian reconciliation and break apart the unity government."
Israeli officials said they expected and hoped that international pressure would lead Abbas to abandon his partnership with Hamas.
Netanyahu told Abbas on the phone on Monday: "I expect your assistance in returning the abducted boys home and in capturing the kidnappers. The Hamas kidnappers came out of Palestinian Authority-controlled territory, and returned to Palestinian Authority-controlled territory."