Mahmoud Abbas, President of the PA, caved to Hamas on Thursday in Mecca. Eager beyond all else to avoid civil war within the PA, he acceded to an agreement on a unity government that made Hamas the clear winner. As Khaled Abu Toameh of the Post has put it, "Hamas leaders have every reason to laugh all the way back from Mecca.
"As one Hamas leader in Gaza City explained, ‘Fatah made 90 percent of the concessions, while Hamas made only 10%.’"
There have been three "red lines" within the international community for dealing with a government that includes Hamas: recognition of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements, and renunciation of terror. None of the three is part of the unity deal. There is some phrase with regard to "respecting" previous agreements, which is not the same as abiding by them, and no mention of the other two.
Other points on which Abu Toameh says Hamas has won:
— The prime minister will be from Hamas; it will still be Ismail Haniyeh.
— The Interior Ministry will be controlled by Hamas.
— Fatah will lose control over two key cabinet positions — Foreign Affairs and Finance. They will go to ‘independents" who will work under the prime minister.
— The Hamas paramilitary force of 4,000, called the Executive Force, will be incorporated into the PA security forces.
Please note: This means their salaries will be paid for by the US and the EU! This is the force that Abbas had outlawed with a demand that it be dismantled. His aides called it a "bunch of murderers and gangsters."
— The word "Israel" was never mentioned in the agreement — or in public statements alluding to the agreement made by Hamas, Fatah or the Saudis. As Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan explained after the agreement has been signed: "Hamas’s position remains firm and unchanged: we will never recognize the legitimacy of the Zionist entity."
— There has been no reference to a Middle East peace process or the need to halt attacks on Israel — not in the agreement or in statements made by Hamas, Fatah or the Saudis. Emphasis was strictly on stopping intra-Palestinian violence.
— Abbas has opened the door to Hamas to join the PLO, which is Fatah dominated; Mashaal will be Abbas’s deputy.
To see Abu Toameh’s full analysis: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?apage=2&cid=+1170359828092&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
A rational analysis of the above leads to the conclusion, indubitably, that this is a bad scene. Bad for Israel, bad for forces of moderation in the Middle East. As there will be a good deal of analysis done with regard to this, I would like to point out a couple of specific factors of concern:
— The notion of "recognizing Israel." This agreement does not even do that much. But it must be understood that such de facto recognition in and of itself, were it to be offered by Hamas, as it has been offered by some Hamas leaders in the past, is sorely insufficient and supporters of Israel should not be fooled. "Sure," Hamas leaders have said on occasion, offering the western world a sop, "Israel exists. It’s there. We recognize this fact." That’s very lovely, but what is needed is acknowledgement of Israel’s right to exist, which is something else again. This will never be forthcoming from Hamas, as they don’t believe this right exists.
Don’t be fooled into thinking one thing is the same as the other.
— The "moderating" influence of Saudi Arabia. A great deal is being written these days about the Sunni-Shia split within the Muslim world, and the fact that "moderate" Arab nations, alarmed by Iran, are coming around to a more conciliatory position with regard to Israel. There is some modest truth to this, but it is best not to imagine Arab positions that are simply not reality. We already had an example last week of the "moderation" of King Abdullah, of Jordan, who made highly inflammatory remarks with regard to Israel’s construction of a new gate outside the Temple Mount. But what Saudi Arabia has done is of a far more serious nature:
Saudi Arabia served as a moderator in the negotiations between Fatah and Hamas not in order to bring moderation and help achieve genuine peace in the Middle East, but to stave off Palestinian civil war. You will note, in the description of Hamas "wins" above, that the Saudis never mentioned Israel in any public statement connected with the unity agreement, and never mentioned the need for a peace process. In order to "motivate" the parties to come together, they have offered $1 billion to the PA. That is $1 billion that will go to a Palestinian government that will not recognize Israel and will not foreswear terrorism. $1 billion that demolishes any international boycott of a Hamas-run government.
According to Abu Toameh, there were Fatah officials who reported that the Saudis exerted heavy pressure on Abbas to abandon some of his previous conditions.
"On Thursday evening, the Saudis told us that we [had] only two hours to sign an agreement and that they [wouldn’t] accept any excuses," a top Fatah official said. "It was a real threat that made President Abbas very nervous and forced him to accept almost all of Hamas’s conditions."
Do not be taken in by the Saudis. (And by way of corollary, do not imagine that Abbas has an iota of power.)
— A temporary ceasefire, called a tadiyeh. Hamas has refused to foreswear terrorism. But there is talk about the possibility of a tadiyeh. If accepted, this would be a disaster. For it calls for a cessation in warfare for a period of time, but says nothing about ceasing training, surrendering weapons, or halting manufacture and smuggling of more weapons. In other words, it offers a temporary quiet during which time preparations for later hitting Israel even harder can be made. This is built into Islamic strategy.
So, the next question is what will the response of Israel and the international community be with regard to this development.
Israel is said to be "cool" to it, and preliminary statements were quite negative. As I reported last week, there were suggestions that this may impinge on Olmert’s scheduled meeting with Abbas later this month, and Foreign Minister Livni has cautioned the international community to "reject vague formulas." But there is as yet no formal statement from Olmert, who told the Cabinet that the details of the agreement must be studied first. The US has issued a similar statement. Given the outline I have described above, it is difficult to imagine that any redeeming features of the agreement will be discovered in the fine print. We must watch, and hope that there will not be wholesale caving to Hamas. (More on this will follow.) Positions must be forthcoming from the Quartet — whose very specific benchmarks for acceptance have been ignored — and from the EU. Unsurprisingly, it seems France is on the way to caving.
I am pleased to report that the Cabinet today decided that construction work on the Mughrabi gate would continue in spite of Arab objections. The area where work is being done is solely within Israeli jurisdiction, Olmert pointed out. To have ceased the work would have been to diminish Israeli sovereignty and
to bow to Arab coercion. Regrettably, Defense Minister Peretz was one of three who voted to stop the work; I have the sense, truly, that he doesn’t get it. According to Security Minister Avi Dichter, the fuss has been fueled by Israeli Arab leaders (including some who are members of Knesset) who called for international intervention.
Sigh…Abbas, playing his role to the hilt, said today that he is looking forward to the upcoming meeting with Rice and Olmert, which will provide an opportunity for jumpstarting the peace process. He also said that he would raise at that meeting the issue of the Mughrabi gate.
This posting can be found at: https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2007/2/11/posted-february-11-2007.html