[Published 6 May 2011]
The announcement this week in Cairo of the long awaited reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah has turned out to be to nothing more than an agreement to continue negotiating on a range of so far unresolved - and apparently irreconcilable - issues.
Two years of intense and fruitless mediation by Egypt to end the internecine conflict between the two warring factions over the last four years seems set to continue.
The lack of confidence in hoping to achieve a satisfactory outcome may have well motivated both Fatah Chairman - Mahmoud Abbas - and Hamas Chief - Khaled Meshaal - to appoint deputies to sign the agreement on their behalf whilst they merely looked on.
Certainly the claim by Abbas that they had turned forever the “black page of divisions” appeared to be very premature. Meshaal seeking to strike a historically resonant note, declared that Hamas’s bitter rift with Fatah was “behind us”.
In fact however the signed document comprises no more than heads of agreement calling for the parties to form an interim government by consensus, iron out a number of fundamental issues between them and set up the mechanism for the calling of elections to be held on 3 May 2012.
The fulfilment of the document’s stated objectives promises to be impossible to achieve - given the intense and long running hatred and acrimony between Hamas and Fatah - which has resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries sustained by the civilian Arab populations in Gaza and the West Bank caught up in this long running struggle for power and control over both suffering populations.
The first hurdle can be found in Article 3A of the signed agreement which states:
“Both Fatah and Hamas agree to form a Palestinian government and to appoint the Prime Minister and Ministers in consensus between them.”/i>
How this consensus is expected to be achieved is left unanswered. Given the peremptory dismissal of Hamas leader Ismail Haniya as democratically elected Prime Minister by Abbas in June 2007- one would imagine there is no way Haniya would agree to Abbas’s current unelected replacement - Salman Fayyad - still continuing to fill that role in the run up to the new elections.
The idea that Hamas would agree to a Fatah appointed Prime Minister being in control at the time of the proposed elections is fanciful thinking. The idea that Fatah would abandon Fayyad to the wind is equally unrealistic.
Fayyad and Abbas’s difference of opinion with Haniya regarding their perceptions of America and Islamic terrorism will no doubt create further problems in reaching any workable consensus.
Haniya was strident in his anger at the announcement that al Quaeda head Osama Bin Laden had been found and killed in Pakistan and his body consigned to the bottom of the ocean by an elite American strike force:
“We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs. .. If the news is true, then we consider it a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and bloodshed against Arabs and Muslims,”
At the other end of the spectrum, Salam Fayyad - was saying exactly the opposite:
“The man killed in the operation engaged in terror and destruction his entire life. I hope his death is the beginning of the end for this dark era.”Fayyad was backed up by Abbas’s spokesman - Ghassan Khatib - who commented:
“Getting rid of bin Laden is good for the cause of peace worldwide but what counts is to overcome the discourse and the methods—the violent methods—that were created and encouraged by bin Laden and others in the world,”
How any Government - no matter how temporary - can marry these views and hope to gain American and European Union support - remains a real mystery
Some of the other issues requiring to be resolved under the signed document include:
1. supervising and addressing the prevalent issues regarding the internal Palestinian reconciliation resulting from the state of division.
2. resolving the civil and administrative problems that resulted from the division
3. unification of the Palestinian National Authority institutions in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.
It is sobering to realize that the resolution of these long running and festering core issues have not even got to first base. Believing these apparently irreconcilable differences can be resolved in the next few months is the stuff dreams are made of.
Throw into the mix that Hamas
1. has been declared a terrorist organization by both America and the European Union
2. will have won no friends in the American administration following Haniya’s denigration of Obama and America
3. will be keen to even scores with Abbas and cause him as the leader of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its largest faction Fatah maximum loss of face, authority and power before the next elections
- then you have a recipe for ongoing disagreement and further conflict.
Hamas has always set itself apart from the PLO by seeking to create an Islamic state and not a secular state - and this surely will prove to be a major impediment to establishing even a temporary unity government between them.
Article 27 of the Hamas Charter explicitly declares:
“...the PLO has adopted the idea of a Secular State, and so we think of it. Secular thought is diametrically opposed to religious thought. Thought is the basis for positions, for modes of conduct and for resolutions. Therefore, in spite of our appreciation for the PLO and its possible transformation in the future, and despite the fact that we do not denigrate its role in the Arab-Israeli conflict, we cannot substitute it for the Islamic nature of Palestine by adopting secular thought. For the Islamic nature of Palestine is part of our religion, and anyone who neglects his religion is bound to lose.”
Given the violent Jihadist philosophy of Hamas and its call for the destruction of Israel - one can predict that the PLO and Fatah will be the losers in this latest attempt at reconciliation - as will be the hope of ever creating a Palestinian Arab State by peaceful negotiations.