Is Abu Mazen an Asset or a Liability?
In the wake of Hamas' electoral victory, Abu Mazen has stated that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is still committed to agreements signed with Israel and has been quoted as stating "We are going to go back and revive the role of the PLO" (Ha'aretz, 27/1). On the other hand, Hamas has demanded that some of the PLO diplomatic agents be replaced by Hamas loyalists. (Channel 2, 29/1).
These comments indicate a change in the division of powers and authorities between the PA and the PLO in the wake of Hamas' electoral victory, which will influence the status and standing of Abu Mazen.
What is the Issue?
The status of the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people has been recognized by the Arab states (10/74), the UN (11/74) and Israel and the United States (9/93). In accordance with this approach, in the Interim Agreement it was established that the PLO would represent the PA in the negotiations with Israel.
In fact, the center of political power has moved from the PLO to the PA, and Israel has come to see the PA as a partner to the political process (see Israel's reservations to the Roadmap). This process has taken place despite the PLO's having remained Israel's official interlocutor and despite Abu Mazen's having remained the President of the PA and the Chairman of the PLO.
The strategic goal of Hamas is the takeover of the PLO – the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people – and of the leadership of the entire Palestinian national movement on the basis of an Islamist-nationalist ideology.
Fatah's control of the PA has served Hamas' strategy, which was based on influencing the political process without bearing the responsibility for its outcome. This responsibility was placed squarely on the shoulders of the Fatah.