Palestinian Unity: Done Deal or Wobbly? – by Stephen Lendman
A previous article explained the announced deal, accessed through the following link:
In late April, Fatah and Hamas announced a reconciliation draft agreement, including a transitional government and planned presidential and legislative elections within a year.
It signaled hope for rapprochement between the two sides, as well as better prospects for Palestinian independence within 1967 borders, UN membership, achieving peace, and ending Israel’s 44 year occupation. However, fulfillment faces long odds without strong Western backing, unlikely to surface given determined Israeli and Washington pressure to subvert it.
Despite unresolved issues between the two sides, AFP writer Nasser Abu Bakr headlined on May 3, “Palestinian factions sign unity deal in Cairo,” saying:
“Representatives of 13 factions (including Fatah and Hamas), as well as independent political (groups), inked the deal following talks with Egyptian officials.”
According to PLO member Bilal Qassem, “All the Palestinian factions signed the document at a meeting with Egyptian intelligence officials.”
Palestine People’s Party member Walid al-Awad said:
“We signed the deal despite several reservations. But we insisted on working for the higher national interest. We have discussed all the reservations. Everyone has agreed to take these points into consideration.”
At the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu denounced it, calling it “a hard blow to the peace process” he fundamentally rejects as a waste of time based on earlier comments.
Of course, signing ceremonies are one thing, commitment and follow through another, as well as fine print deal details. More on them below.
On May 4, Haaretz writers Jack Khoury and Avi Issacharoff headlined, “Report: Fatah-Hamas unity deal delayed over Palestinian Authority foreign policy,” saying:
At issue is “Abbas’ insistence that he be the sole speaker at the (formal ceremony). This move allegedly implies his expect(ation) to be the” the interim government’s head of state, letting him control Palestinian foreign policy and other key issues.
Fatah supports negotiating Israel’s version of peace, what Hamas opposes knowing what’s agreed won’t be equitable. Nonetheless, its leaders, including Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyah, are willing to recognize Israel in return for a viable Palestinian state within 1967 borders, just 22% of their original homeland, a deal Israel rejects.
Updating their article, Khoury and Issacharoff said Abbas and Mashaal both spoke at the ceremony, Mashaal saying:
“Hamas was ready to pay any price for internal Palestinian reconciliation. The only battle of the Palestinians is against Israel. Our aim is to establish a free and completely sovereign Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza strip, whose capital is Jerusalem, without any settlers and without giving up a single inch of land and without giving up on the right of return.”
Abbas signaled turning a page, saying:
“Four black years have affected the interests of Palestinians. Now we meet to assert a unified will. Israel is using the Palestinian reconciliation as an excuse to evade (peace. It) must choose between peace and settlement.”
Based on his long history as a collaborationist Israeli ally, it remains to be seen how serious Abbas is about a new page, one never previously turned, especially given what he’ll lose by trying.
Netanyahu’s response to the Cairo ceremony highlights what’s at stake, saying:
“What happened today in Cairo is a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism,” signaling his intent to subvert unity and independence aspirations by any means perhaps including deeper repression and conflict.
However, Haaretz writer Barak Ravid’s May 4 article headlined, “Israel Foreign Ministry views Hamas-Fatah deal differently than Netanyahu,” saying:
A confidential ministry report says “a Fatah-Hamas unity government in the Palestinian Authority would offer Israel a strategic opportunity” for genuine change to serve Israel’s long-term interests.
Prepared by career policy planning diplomats, it’s at odds with hardline Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s opposition. Earlier he said Israel won’t negotiate with an interim government because the “agreement crosses a red line,” bogusly calling Hamas “a terrorist organization (committed to) Israel’s destruction.”
By now, it should be a totally discredited accusation. Yet it’s repeated by Israeli and US officials, supporting isolation, occupation, land theft, mass arrests, targeted assassinations, torture, settlement construction, and conflict, not viable reconciliation and peace. Hoping they’ll now turn a page is very much betting against long odds.
Nonetheless, the ministry report says:
“Israel must be a team player and coordinate its response to a Palestinian unity government with the administration. This will empower the United States and serve Israeli interests….We must avoid expressions or moves that will weaken Israel against the Palestinians in the international arena, especially in view of the strategic challenges that are expected during the year.”
Major Hurdles to Overcome
Besides longstanding Israeli and Washington obstructionism, as well as reconciling divergent Fatah – Hamas positions, the deal’s fine print raises questions. On April 3, Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah discussed them, including:
At issue is holding them “within the framework of the (discredited) Oslo Accords,” restricting them to the West Bank and Gaza as now constituted. It also recognizes Abbas as president even though his term expired over two years ago, giving him no legitimacy.
Moreover, it leaves unexplained how free elections are possible as long as Israel and Washington designate Hamas (Palestine’s 2006 democratically elected government) a terrorist organization. Nothing is mentioned to change this or end both sides political repression of the other.
In addition, letting all Palestinians, not just those in Gaza and the West Bank, participate in future elections remains a key unmet demand.
(2) PLO Status
Agreement language appears to “give authority to the Abbas-controlled PLO to continue recognizing Israel and engag(e) in the peace process charade which Hamas formally rejects.” Reform or democratization issues aren’t mentioned.
Vague language “seems to restore (Abbas’ legitimacy) as ‘president’ in the eyes of Hamas.” Moreover, ending Fatah-Israeli collaborationist “security coordination” was unaddressed. It suggests less than “true integration of Palestinian armed groups,” leaving each side in charge of its respective areas, an arrangement no different than now except in name.
(4) Formation of the Government
Reports suggesting replacing Fatah’s appointed prime minister Salam Fayyad with billionaire Munib al-Masri would assure continuation of destructive neoliberal policies without democratic or popular accountability. If so, Palestine will stay colonized like today.
(5) Legislative Council
At issue is whether Hamas officials can govern under threat of Israeli arrest, imprisonment or assassination. As a result, both sides may leave current arrangements in place, while rhetorically claiming unity. If so, it amounts to solidarity in name only.
As of April 15, “Israel still held 13 (elected Hamas) members of the legislative council” illegally in prison, and continues harassing and detaining other Palestinian officials. Specific guarantees must assure this ends.
Moreover, unity problem resolution commitments lack specifics. Apparently, Hamas and Fatah are reconciled to governing under Oslo Authority that ignores key Palestinian rights and demands, including refugees, the occupation, and Jerusalem as a future capital, among others.
In other words, unity is meaningless if everything changes but stays the same. Israel and Washington intend to keep it that way.
As a result, exclusive of political divisions (among Fatah, Hamas and other groups), Palestinian solidarity must struggle independently for liberation and peace under democratic governance freed from occupation. Rest assured, growing millions worldwide support it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.