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Sharm summit surprises: Abbas is abandoned


When I wrote about the expected results of the Sharm El Sheikh summit, I anticipated few surprises coming out of a media spin event. After all, the summit was ostensibly called to bolster Mahmud Abbas and his Fateh government.

I was wrong. The mini-surprise that got media attention was the announcement by Israeli PM Ehud Olmert that Israel would release 250 Fateh prisoners. Israeli analysts claimed, not without credibility, that this was a spin gesture intended to upstage the Hamas, which released a tape of captive Gilad Shalit. In Israel it didn't work immediately, as vacuous newspapers filled their front pages with the Shalit tape. Since then, a predictable and dreary right-left debate has ensued over the wisdom of the release.

The real surprise of the summit was not anticipated and not immediately apparent. Egypt and Saudi Arabia had apparently decided to stab Mahmoud Abbas and US peace efforts in the back, as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced that there is no choice except to work for reunification of the Fateh and Hamas.

President Hosni Mubarak, who hosted the Sharm summit, had originally called the Hamas takeover a coup. But Mubarak changed course. He announced in his summation speech at the conference, that Fateh and Hamas must work together to restore Palestinian unity. Mahmoud Abbas wasn't having any of this. He clearly wanted no part of the Hamas. Jordan's King Abdullah sat with an expression on his face that looked as though he was forced to eat something very unpleasant. Mubarak reiterated his proposal that Hamas and Fateh must reunite after a period of calm in an interview with Israeli Television Channel 1, and again, the same line was taken in communications by Mubarak's spokesman after meeting in Sharm El Sheikh with Saudi officials, immediately after the summit:

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are ready to resume mediation between rival Palestinian factions following the bloody seizure of Gaza by Hamas, Egyptian presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad said Tuesday....

Saudi King Abdullah told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during talks in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh that his country would be willing to resume inter-Palestinian mediation, Awad said.

"Yes, this is very much on the table," Awad told reporters following the meeting, which came a day after a largely inconclusive summit of Middle East leaders in Sharm.

But he added: "We need some time for the spirits to calm down, for the verbal clashes to subside.

"We need time to create the climate conducive to mediating between the Hamas people and the Palestinian authority in order to sort out their differences."

The Saudis and the Egyptians see that the Hamas and their Iranian and Syrian benefactors are in control, and that Abbas and his US supporters are no longer powers to be reckoned with in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia made cam to these conclusions originally when it brokered the unity agreement, which forced Fateh to accept Hamas hegemony on their own terms. The Gaza coup, the powerlessness of the Fateh to stop it, and the gutless reaction of the United States and Israel, certainly seem to bear out their assessment.

In the United States, media acceptance of the Hamas regime was heralded by simultaneous acceptance of Hamas propaganda Op-Eds by the New York Times and the Washington Post. Various "liberal" bloggers and pundits hastened to the support of the Hamas as well. The PLO and the Fateh, once championed by the so-called progressive forces, are now cast in the role of agents of the (evil) Bush administration and the "Zionists," following the Hamas line. The Gaza coup, a victory for Islamist reaction, has been spun as a defeat for Bush and the "Zionists."

A "unity" government of the type contemplated, would in the circumstances, mean the end of the Fateh and probably the end of any meaningful peace process. At most, Hamas would be asked to agree that they will not throw any more people off roofs. There is no chance they will agree to accept the peace process or Israel as legitimate. As they have the guns, they will dictate the terms. Since the Fateh government of Abbas are now enjoying renewed legitimation, foreign aid and Israeli peace contacts, there is every chance that these would be transferred, at least to some extent, to the new "unity" Hamas government. Hamas, with the aid of US clients Egypt and Saudi Arabia, would then have broken the international blockade, vanquished Hamas, achieved legitimacy, and sabotaged any real peace process. The way would be open for establishment of an Islamist entity in Gaza and the West Bank. This entity would certainly be recognized as a state in everything but name by the Arab world and most of the third world. Only Israel, the United States and some European countries would be perceived as backward holdouts, who did not accept the "democratic choice" of the Palestinian people, a choice enforced with AK-47s and RPGs and by execution and butchering of those who disagree.

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 1 Comment

"Hamas, with the aid of US clients Egypt and Saudi Arabia, would then have broken the international blockade, vanquished Hamas..."

I think the second "Hamas" there should read "Fateh"?

Correct on the idiocy of "the so-called progressive forces" but why no mention of Israel's role in the coming to power of Hamas? Granted there are extreme problems with Fateh's governance but their inability to deliver a liveable agreement with Israel must also be laid at the door of successive Israeli governments?

The idea that Fateh are expected to police the occupied territories on behalf of the Israelis seems to me to have some purchase.

Posted by Chris @ 07/06/2007 06:57 PM CST

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