[Published 15 March 2012]
The much vaunted reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah has become yet another missed opportunity and non-event following revelations by the Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC) chief electoral officer - Hisham Kuhail - that the May 4 date set for presidential and parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza will not eventuate.
There has been no parliamentary poll in Gaza since 2006 - and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has continued in the role of President illegally after the expiration of his term in 2009.
In an interview with The National - Mr Kuhail said the commission cannot stage the elections primarily because Hamas will not allow it to make the necessary preparations in Gaza - such as updating the voting registry and installing voting centres. The West Bank voter register was updated last August.
Mr Kuhail reportedly said his team was denied permission to do this in Gaza during a meeting there last month with aides to Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza - Ismail Haniyeh
Mr Kuhail said the problem could only be resolved by real reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.
Under Palestinian law - Palestinian Authority President - Mahmoud Abbas - must issue a decree instructing the CEC to begin preparing for the elections. This process takes 90 days.
Mr Kuhail said:
“But to this moment, that has not happened, The earliest feasible date to organize an election would be after June”
A Hamas-Fatah agreement signed in Cairo last year was supposed to have led to an interim government that would govern both Gaza and the West Bank until elections took place. This has yet to materialise.
Islamic Jihad’s Secretary-General - Ramadan Abdullah Shallah - has lamented on the continuing differences of opinion between Hamas and Fatah that have prevented the implementation of any deal:
“Each side has its defense and pretexts, but the loser is our people because its interests are being ignored ... “
Regrettably those interests have been ignored for the last 75 years since the Peel Committee first recommended the partition of Palestine into an Arab State and a Jewish State.
Meanwhile American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - speaking in New York after a meeting of the impotent Quartet - America, Russia, The European Union and the United Nations - could only repeat the following tired mantra repeatedly invoked by President Obama:
“President Obama and I have been consistent in our belief that the Palestinian people – like their Arab neighbors, Israelis, and all people – deserve dignity, liberty and the right to decide their own futures. They deserve a viable,independent Palestine,alongside a secure Israel.”
Clearly the idea of creating such a new Arab state between Israel and Jordan for the first time in recorded history - and the threats any such state would pose to Israel’s security - has become passé.
This solution - which may have looked attractive when recycled in 1993 with the signing of the Oslo Accords - has been fatally impacted by events in the region and in Iran during the past twelve months - not to mention the 200 rockets fired from Gaza into Israeli civilian population centres this past week.
Even if Hamas and Fatah were to miraculously embrace in a genuine show of fraternal respect - how could Israel be expected to deal with any Government in which Hamas is a member - when Haniyeh openly declared on 14 December last:
“Today, we say, in a clear and unambiguous fashion: The armed resistance and armed struggle are our strategic choice and our path to liberate the Palestinian land, from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River, and to drive the usurping invaders out of the blessed land of Palestine.”
This battle cry is overshadowed by Fatah and the PLO’s more strident demand - that Jordan be included in the Palestinian Arab State it seeks to create.
Time waits for no man - and in the case of the Palestinian Arabs they have spurned many opportunities to gain for themselves - in the West Bank and Gaza - a second independent and exclusively Arab state in former Palestine - in addition to Jordan - in
(ii) Between 1948-1967
President Obama needs to fully comprehend what well known Israeli dove Yossi Alpher recently wrote:
“The Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as we have known it since the 1993 signing of the Oslo accords, essentially died more than three years ago with the demise of the final status talks between then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas”
Continuing to pretend there is any life left in the Oslo Accords and President Bush’s 2002 Roadmap is the height of folly and recklessness. Believing it can ever be implemented is with respect - gross stupidity.
Maybe President Obama might find it easier to adopt a new mantra based on the following remark recently made by an apparently intelligent 18-year-old girl from Ramallah - who told the person interviewing her for a scholarship to a college in America:
“... the [Jewish] “settlers” [in the West Bank] are really refugees. They, too, are returning to their ancestral homelands. It wouldn’t be fair to tell them to leave.”>
Maybe there is a message for President Obama in these few well chosen words - stop engaging in fiction - come back into the real world - and face the following facts:
1. The Jewish-Arab conflict over Palestine has been ongoing for 130 years - long before there were “Israelis”, Palestinians”, “Transjordanians” and “Jordanians”.
2. Jews have their sovereign State in 17% of former Palestine - now called Israel.
3. Arabs have their sovereign state in 77% of former Palestine.- now called Jordan
4. Just 6% of former Palestine - the West Bank and Gaza - remains to be allocated between Jews and Arabs - who both are claiming sovereignty in these areas.
5. Attempts between Israel and the PLO to resolve sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza have irretrievably broken down.
6. New Arab negotiating partners are now needed to replace the PLO and sit down with Israel to try and resolve the allocation of sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza.
7. Those Arab partners should be Jordan and Egypt - the only two Arab States to have signed peace treaties with Israel and the last Arab occupiers of Gaza and the West Bank between 1948-1967.
Facing up to these realities is necessary - if President Obama and America is to become relevant in advancing the resolution of this long-running conflict.
President Obama does not have the luxury of time - because even this window of opportunity - which has remained open since 6 June 1967 - is fast being slammed in his face.