In a February 25, 2019 interview on SophieCo on Russia Today TV, Mohammed Ishtayeh, an advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was asked about his opinion regarding a MEMRI analysis that said that Hamas and the PLO both claim that the other no longer represents the Palestinian people (see MEMRI TV Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1433). Ishtayeh answered that the testing field for this assumption is the opinion polls and ballot boxes and that the PLO challenges Hamas to accept the idea of elections in order to return democracy to the Palestinian political arena. Ishtayeh said that attempts to discredit the opposite parties only harm the Palestinian people because they will eventually cause the international community to reject both sides. He said that reconciliation is the solution to the problem, and added that Abbas and the PLO are internationally recognized as the legitimate representatives of the Palestinians even if there is a split in authority.
Sophie Shevardnadze: A recent report by the Middle East Media Research Institute says the relations between the two Palestinian parties are now at the point "where each side is saying that the other no longer represents the Palestinian people." That's a direct quote. How do Palestinians feel about this, in your opinion? Do they feel represented by any of the parties at this table? Can the whole affair result in an intifada against Hamas?
Mohammed Ishtayeh: The testing field for this assumption is the opinion polls and the ballot boxes. So instead of claiming this and that, I think that we challenge Hamas to accept the idea of elections. We are ready for it. We are ready to go to that, and we will bring democracy back into action for the Palestinian political arena. It is very important to use to really keep this sort of embryonic democracy that we started with. It should not die down.
The second important issue is that these sort of claims and counter-claims do harm to Palestine. It doesn't really help Hamas… It doesn't help anybody to say that this government is legitimate and this government is not legitimate. At the end of the day, the international community will say: "To Hell with both of them." We should avoid that, and I think we should be responsible and say that this split is harming our people. The way out is reconciliation, not to discredit each other on this issue.
We know, also, that there is a legitimate leadership. President Abbas has been elected by the people. The PLO, of which President Abbas is also the chairman, is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, which is recognized by all Palestinians, which is recognized by all Arab countries, and which is recognized by the international community and the United Nations. So if there is a split in the authority, there is a unity in the PLO.