Can Fatah, Hamas Find Common Ground?

Ziad Abu Amr is a newly elected independent member of the Palestinian parliament. The former Palestinian cabinet minister was elected with Hamas support. He talks with Liane Hansen about prospects for cooperation between Fatah and Hamas.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Dr. Ziad Abu Amr was elected to the Palestinian parliament as an independent, with Hamas backing. He's a former Palestinian cabinet minister, and he joins us now. Sir, thank you very much for your time.

Dr. ZIAD ABU AMR (Palestinian parliament member): Thank you.

HANSEN: The Palestinians are now looking at a government with a member of Fatah as President, and a Hamas majority in parliament. What do you think are the chances of cooperation between these two parties?

Dr. AMR: I think there is a chance for cooperation, especially when the two sides have expressed willingness and keenness to cooperate, both Hamas on the one hand and the President on the other hand. And they, in fact, the two sides have no alternative but to cooperate in order for the government to run.

HANSEN: And you're optimist. Where are those chances? Maybe a few examples of where cooperation, where you think it's going to happen?

Dr. AMR: I think there is going to be easy cooperation on the internal divide, with regard to reform and change. The President has a program and Hamas has a program and the both programs are not very much different from one another when it comes to internal reforms. So the President will get full Hamas backing on his program of reform.

HANSEN: A lot of people believe that, you know, when you get into power it sometimes has a moderating influence on the politicians themselves. I mean, do you believe that, and do you see that happening with Hamas?

Dr. AMR: Definitely. And this moderating influence has started long before the Hamas entered the parliament. I think when Hamas accepted the truce, the cease fire with Israel, the temporary one, that was the shift. Now, when Hamas is in parliament and when Hamas is likely to form the government, this will have a sobering effect on the movement which will become extremely sensitive to the imperatives of politics; vis a vis, the imperatives of ideology.

And we have already heard the statements by the leadership of Hamas indicating its appreciation of political realities. Mr. Mitchell, the head of the Polit Bureau, announced yesterday that the PA was established on the basis of the Oslo agreement and they will deal with the, with this reality with a great sense of realistic pragmatism.

HANSEN: So do you expect moderation on policies toward Israel, for example?

Dr. AMR: Well, it has to be reciprocal. I think Hamas has learned from the failing experience with the PA that they cannot give one-sided concessions to Israel. But I'm sure concessions from the Israeli side will be met by similar concessions on the part of Hamas.

HANSEN: Dr. Ziad Abu Amr was elected to the Palestinian parliament as an independent, with Hamas backing. And he is a former Palestinian cabinet minister. Sir, thank you so very much for your time.

Dr. AMR: Thank you ma'am, thank you.

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