Hopes of Palestinian unity falter over splits and conditions
What happened to Palestinian “reconciliation”?
Ali Abunimah Saturday, 28.5.2011
After the “reconciliation” agreement was signed between leaders of the Fatah and Hamas Palestinian factions in Cairo on 4 May, we were told that a “unity government” would be formed within days.
Yet more than three weeks later, there is little sign of it and the questions the agreement raised when it was first signed, stand unanswered.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on 27 May:
Sources close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that he will seek to form a government of technocrats by mid-June which will accept the demands of the Quartet, including recognition of Israel.
The sources said that Abbas also appears determined to see Salam Fayyad appointed as prime minister on the unity government, despite widespread objection, as he believes that without Fayyad, the international criticism he has received because of the reconciliation agreement with Hamas cannot be countered.
Mid-June? Is that a promise?
Abbas official visits Gaza
Meanwhile Nabil Shaath, a top Abbas associate, visited the Gaza Strip last week supposedly to advance the implementation of the “unity” agreement.
But his statements to the media during the visit about “implementing” the unity deal remain vague, and similar to those that preceded the deal – a general commitment to “unity,” but without specifics.
It is obvious that the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah remains subject to severe pressure from its foreign financial sponsors, and from Israel, which has publicly demanded that Abbas cancel the deal with Hamas. In his major Middle East policy speech last week, US President Barack Obama also imposed public demands that Palestinians accept his, and Israel’s conditions before they could be considered partners.
This underscores once again that self-government under Israel’s brutal occupation and blackmail is an illusion and it might be better to dissolve the Palestinian Authority that sustains this illusion.
Divisions within Hamas and among factions
The lack of progress toward a “unity government” also comes amid reports of splits within Hamas over the deal – especially between Gaza-based leaders and the group’s overall leader Khaled Meshal who is based in Damascus.
The splits appear to be sharpest about Meshal’s apparent support for “peace process” negotiations that have delivered nothing to the Palestinians over almost two decades. Hamas officials have also reiterated the group’s acceptance of the basic principles of the failed two-state solution.
Another report from Ma’an News Agency indicated that 8 smaller PLO factions were planning to boycott the “unity government” in protest at “what is being called a “bilateral monopoly” between Fatah and Hamas in discussions over the unity government.”
These developments suggest that the root causes of the division in the Palestinian body politic were never truly resolved and as I wrote soon after the deal was announced, so far it has been a hollow reconciliation.
Ramallah Palestinian Authority rejects any revision of stances
While Hamas – notwithstanding differences of opinion – is the party that has moved the furthest, there appears to be absolutely no shift in the basic positions of the Abbas-controlled PA.
It remains fully commmitted to active military collaboration with Israeli occupation forces; the Quartet conditions that require Palestinians to submit to Israeli political demands and abandon any right to resist Israeli occupation; and keeping a Western-imposed “prime minister” to ensure that aid donors whose policies have reduced Palestinians to abject dependence on handouts, and not Palestinians, control all key decisions.
It is to be noted that the Ramallah-based PA has never repudiated the policies that created and maintained the division after Fatah refused to accept Hamas’ 2006 election victory and worked with the Bush administration to overturn the result. No one behind these grave actions has ever been held to account. Overwhelming evidence indicates that these actions include:
Officials loyal to Abbas’ PA formed a secret committee with the US, Israel and Egypt’s deposed Mubarak regime to undermine the PA “national unity government” in 2007;
Palestinian Authority officials strenuously lobbied Israel against prisoner swap with Hamas that could have freed 1,000 Palestinians;
Ramallah Palestinian Authority officials constantly complained to Israel and the United States that the siege of Gaza wasn’t tight enough, and urged that more should be done to tighten it.
Despite the fanfare of the reconciliation signing, so far there is little to celebrate, and less reason to believe that either Fatah and Hamas are capable of presenting any coherent vision to restore the rights of all Palestinians, and a strategy to achieve it.
Their deal seems to have produced many more meetings of men, but still no meeting of minds.