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Good news on the Palestinian side?

05/25/2006

Palestinian factions are meeting today to hammer out a unity agreement that would supposedly settle jurisdictional and political strife between Hamas and Fatah. Thus far all, previously announced calls for unity and the rule of law have been followed by murders, bombings and kidnappings, but this attempt looks a bit more serious. It is prompted, perhaps, by the threat of Egyptian intervention if the violence continues.

Thus far the proposals for unity have a positive flavor, but seem at least partly to be framed to avoid internal confrontation and to perhaps to put Israel on the spot and end the US and EU boycott of the Hamas led Palestinian Authority. The agreement that will emerge will probably give President Mahmoud Abbas at least nominal control of Palestinian finances. This would make it much more difficult for Israel to continue to demand an aid boycott of the Palestinian Authority, since Fatah, rather than Hamas would supposedly be the aid recipient and distributor. The question of who will control the security forces, and the question of whether or not the Hamas will abandon the new security force created contrary to the orders of Abbas, were not mentioned.

According to the Jerusalem Post and other sources, Hamas have agreed to let President Mahmoud Abbas negotiate with Israel according to the principles of the PLO. That means, in principle, that Hamas would at least indirectly acquiesce in the right of Israel to exist. However, any agreement would have to be approved by a referendum. Hamas would recognize Israel only after withdrawal from the "occupied territories." The "occupied territories are not defined. Hamas has asserted repeatedly in the past that they would never recognize Israel, and that all of the land from the river to the sea is occupied Palestine. Apparently, Abbas has proposed that if the factions do not agree on his program within ten days, he would put it to a referendum. This is confirmed by WAFA, the PLO news agency, According to WAFA, the document to be voted upon is the statement of the prisoners, which calls for a two state solution in 1967 borders. The document endorses negotiations based on "Arab legitimacy," a probable oblique reference to the Arab peace plan.

The prisoners' petition, however, includes a demand for return of Palestinian refugees, a condition that is sure to be unacceptable to Israel:


"The Palestinian people, in the homeland and in the diaspora, aspires to liberate its land and realize its self-determination, including the establishment of an independent state on all the land occupied in 1967, and to assure the right of return for refugees and the liberation of all prisoners and detainees," reads the first section of the document.


Contrary to the principles of the quartet road map, the document does not renounce violence, but instead claims the right of "resistance" as long as the occupation continues.

The results of the conference may be a true breakthrough for peace and order, or they might be a way of perpetuating the current impasse on terms more favorable to the Palestinian image abroad, or the entire initiative might be swept away by continued Fatah-Hamas violence. At least for now, everyone is saying the right things, and that might be good news.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000463.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 7 comments

I am personally encouraged by the news going on lately.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 05/26/2006 06:08 AM CST

This seems like a very smart move by Abbas.

If we assume that Hamas have painted themselves into a corner over the recognition of Israel, and/or that the Palestinians in general have painted themselves into a corner by voting for Hamas for reasons unconnected with Israel, having a referendum which includes the issue of recognition is a really clever way out of the impasse - Hamas can then change their policy without loss of face, if they so wish.

The only way it can really go wrong is if the referendum is lost. Since most Palestinians say they are in favour of a 2-state solution, that seems unlikely.

Perhaps peacniks on the Israeli side should push for an equivalent referendum, possibly based on the Geneva proposals.

Posted by Chris @ 05/26/2006 01:58 PM CST

I think we all should be very careful and not allow our aspirations for peace cloud our judgement. There is no right or wrong answer as an outcome of a referendum, it is not a "spelling bee". It is an invitation for a group of people to express their collective opinion through the ballot box.
While we all may want the Palestinians to vote for Abbas, they may well vote for Hamas.
If they do vote for Abbas, then what happens to Hamas as a government? It will have lost it's mandate effectively. Would they be able to continue? Will the newly armed Hamas militias disband, or will they fight?
If they vote for Hamas, what then? Wouldn't Hamas then have a cast-iron mandate to pursue its policies, regardless of what the world outside this conflict thinks?
IMO this is a time when we should calmly await the outcome and not hold our collective breaths in the hope of one outcome or the other.

Posted by R. Davies @ 05/26/2006 10:38 PM CST

The referendum vote would not for "Hamas" or "Abbas". It would be for a specific policy - a 2-states solution based on recognition of Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state.

My impression is that people voted for Hamas more on an anti-corruption ticket than a destruction of Israel one, and repeated polls show Palestinians in favour of a 2-state solution.

The extent to which Hamas are serious about destroying Israel by military force is overstated I think. Most likely it's a radical posture they found useful in opposition but something of an albatross in office. Otherwise they would not have repeatedly offered this "Hudna" (not to be sniffed at in my view - restarting a war after a period of peace and prosperity is not so easy). History is full of examples of radicals moderated by gaining office.

Hamas might or might not campaign against Abbas' referendum, depending on the wording. I think their main aim is Islamicising Palestinian society rather than destroying Israel, so my guess is they might well stay out of the campaign.

Posted by Chris @ 05/28/2006 02:11 PM CST

I think it is naive to imagine that the referendum would not be perceived as Abbas v. Hamas. The rationale for the referendum is that the Hamas government refuses to abide by any of the signed agreements with Israel. As Hamas does not recognise the right of Israel to exist, then it logically cannot enter into any peace treaty with it, nor would it feel bound to abide by any agreements concluded with Israel.
The "Hudna" that Hamas allegedly is offering to Israel does not provide Israel with the certainty that Israel requires. It is simply a ceasefire that at some unspecified point in the future Hamas reserves the right to revoke. The whole point about 242 etc and Olso was that it was intended to provide certainty and a clear incentive. It would be irrational of Israel to accept this ceasefire and in fact it would be in part a return to pre-1967. It is irrational insofar as no state would provide its enemy (and Hamas remains the enemy in this situation) with a strategic advantage in the full knowledge that the enemy intends to resume the war at some point.

Posted by R. Davies @ 05/30/2006 10:38 AM CST

I would say a 100-year ceasefire would be worth having. Someone elsewhere said that in politics the temporary has a habit of becoming permanent.

Posted by Chris @ 06/01/2006 04:06 PM CST

It never ceases to amaze me at how gullible well-meaning western bourgeois leftists are when these sorts of announcements are made. Hamas is to "recognize Israel's right ot exist!!??" And this is a reason to celebrate? Israel does not require any such thing from Hamas. Hamas is the administrator of a patch of land that is not even considerdd by the UNGA a "state". It is Hamas and the PA that has to do the crawling, not Israel.

And let us never forget these 2 little gems that they always slip in whenever they make statements like this:

"including the establishment of an independent state on all the land occupied in 1967, and to assure the right of return for refugees and the liberation of all prisoners and detainees."

Israel is never, ever going to pull down all its settlements; and nor should it. Yes, it should pull out of many, but not the ones in the Jerusalem area.

Also, the refugees have NEVER had a "right of return." I cannot understand why they so foolishly think they ever HAVE had such a "right."

Posted by NeoCommie @ 06/23/2006 08:06 AM CST


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