Institute for Contemporary Affairs
Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation
Vol. 15, No. 2 January 15, 2015
- Hamas leader Mahmoud Al Zahar claims that after the Camp David summit in 2000, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat gave the go-ahead to the head of the Hamas military wing to carry out terror attacks.
- Hamas received arms from Fatah and the Palestinian Authority for the attacks – further proof of the Authority’s responsibility for the outbreak of the Second Intifada.
- Arafat reached the decision that the negotiations at the Camp David summit in July 2000 were going nowhere. He sent a security representative to Sheikh Salah Shehade, head of the Hamas military wing at the time, with the message: “I have no objection to Hamas taking action.”
On December 15, 2014, the Palestinian News Agency published an interview with Mahmoud Al Zahar, a member of the Hamas Political Bureau and one of the organization’s most prominent leaders. Al Zahar referred in the interview to the events preceding the outbreak of the Second Intifada on September 28, 2000. The excerpt below is taken from this interview.
“Abu Amar [Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat] reached the decision that the negotiations at the Camp David summit [in July 2000] were going nowhere. He sent a security representative to Sheikh Salah Shehade [head of the Hamas military wing at the time] with the message: ‘I have no objection to Hamas taking action’ and we knew [what this meant] when we met to go over details.”
“Some of us said: ‘Those people [the PA] want to know who is [behind] Unit No. 103 or the groups [terror factions] that would carry out [terror attacks] under the name of Omar al-Mukhtar, so that they can report on us, because they [the PA] coordinate with Israel on security matters.’”
“Others said: ‘No, let’s take this opportunity to carry out acts [terror attacks] jointly with them [the PA] or take arms from them. Their method is well known and if they had wanted to use us they would have reported on us [to Israel] and they would be partners [with Israel in anti-terror activities].
“We received arms from them [the PA] and carried out the acts [terror attacks]. [In response to the interviewer’s question, not clearly audible, about the source of the weapons]: ‘[We got the weapons] from Fatah here [in the Gaza Strip], from the [then Palestinian] Authority here [in the Gaza Strip]…. We took those weapons from them and carried out the acts [terror attacks]. They told Abu Amar [Yasser Arafat]: Wait a minute, it was not us who brought you to this situation. There was a siege [by the IDF on the Mukataa Compound in Ramallah, which served as the main headquarters for the Palestinian government, including Arafat’s office], and the [West] Bank was re-occupied [in Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002], and wiping him out [blaming Israel for the alleged “assassination” of Arafat].”
[In response to the interviewer’s question about Arafat’s motives in allowing Hamas to carry out terror attacks after the Camp David summit]: “Only Allah, blessed be He, can know those intentions. Was it done to improve the terms of the negotiations or were they meant to show a shift [in Arafat’s policy]? These are things that Allah, blessed be He, will account for [with Arafat].”
Consistent in Relating Arafat’s Involvement
Mahmoud Al Zahar has made similar claims in previous interviews about Arafat’s go-ahead to Hamas for terror attacks after the Camp David summit. Below is an excerpt from a report in Al-Quds newspaper on April 9, 2005:
“Al Zahar said that the Palestinian Authority reached what Hamas had warned against, namely the Israeli Occupation’s denial of agreements signed with the PLO, clarifying that: ‘After the failure of the Camp David negotiations, the PLO began to tell Hamas that this was the opportunity to begin actions [that is, terror attacks against Israel]. Hamas was mistrustful of this approach, but nevertheless carried out attacks under the name of the Omar al-Mukhtar Force.”
Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported on September 29, 2010 that, at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the Al Aqsa Intifada, Mahmoud Al Zahar said: “The late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat told Hamas to undertake a number of military acts in the heart of Israel, after he felt that negotiations with the occupying regime at the time had failed.”
In an interview on the official Hamas website (Palestine-info.info) on October 8, 2010, Mahmoud Al Zahar was asked about his statement that Hamas had been permitted to launch terror attacks prior to the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada. Below is an excerpt from that interview:
[Question] “You have previously said that President Abu Amar [Yasser Arafat] instructed Hamas to carry out terror attacks while he was under siege in Ramallah. Can we expect that Abu Mazen [the current Chairman of the Palestinian Authority] will reach a similar stage in his relationship with the [Hamas] movement?”
[Al Zahar] “Abu Amar did not tell Fatah to hold talks with Hamas in order to carry out attacks because of support for the opposition, but because of his desire to use terror attacks for tactical purposes. I remember attending the People’s Conference with [senior Fatah representatives] Hani al-Hassan, Abu Ali Shahin and Abdullah Elhourani in the el-Sheikh Awad Hall at el-Al Zahar University [in Gaza]. At that time those present raised the necessity for Hamas to launch terror attacks against the Israeli occupation, and it was no secret. Abu Amar wanted it to be a tactical measure designed to exert pressure on Israel through Hamas. Abu Mazen does not have that courage or that attitude and is not capable of gambling with his life to that end. By this I meant to suggest to the public that at certain points in time use was made of the opposition for tactical goals, and it does not arise from an attitude that sought to improve the negotiation terms. For that reason, I have no interest in changing the endeavors whereby reconciliation and opposition were attempted in order to improve the terms of the negotiations. But it is vital that they [reconciliation and opposition] should be based on a strategic overview.”
For a previous interview in Hebrew on the subject of “Evidence of the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility for the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada,” see: https://jcpa.org.il/2013/02/%D7%A2%D7%93%D7%95%D7%99%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%A2%D7%9C-%D7%90%D7%97%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%95%D7%AA%D7%94-%D7%A9%D7%9C-%D7%94%D7%A8%D7%A9%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%94%D7%A4%D7%9C%D7%A1%D7%98%D7%99%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%AA-%D7%9C/