YAIAR – Fatah-Hamas reconciliation

Fatah-Hamas reconciliationThe two major Palestinian political parties, Fatah and Hamas, announced a reconciliation deal on April 23. The rift between them goes back to the mid-1990s. When the Oslo Accords were signed in 1995 between the Fatah-dominated PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) and Israel, the two major political parties adopted divergent attitudes: Fatah renounced armed resistance against Israel, while Hamas insisted on its continuation.In the legislative elections of Jan. 25, 2006, Hamas won 74 out of 132 seats, while the ruling Fatah won only 45 seats. No major irregularity was recorded during the elections, but Israel’s attitude changed when Hamas emerged as the winner and detained some of the elected Hamas deputies. The Atlanta-based Carter Center, which monitored the elections, criticized the detention of persons who “are guilty of nothing more than winning a parliamentary seat in an open and honest election.”The rift between Fatah and Hamas continued to grow after the elections, sporadic clashes took place between them in Gaza causing the deaths of 33 people and relations were severed completely in 2007. Several initiatives to reconcile them have been taken since then by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and Yemen, but none of them were implemented properly.The reconciliation deal announced last week is yet another step taken on this bumpy road. This time there is a timetable to form a national unity government by the end of next month, probably with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, as prime minister with presidential and parliamentary elections within six months.Has the present reconciliation deal more chance of success than the previous initiatives?This question has to be answered in two stages. The first is whether the deal between the two Palestinian parties will hold in the first place. If it does, the second question will be whether Israel will be prepared to continue to negotiate with a delegation of a government that includes Hamas, which still refuses to recognize the right of Israel to exist.One of the differences between the present inter-Palestinian deal and the previous ones is that the present one does not bring any new element. It simply reconfirms the previous deals and focuses on the methods of their implementation, hence the timetable. Therefore one may wonder whether the reasons for the non-implementation of the previous deals are no longer valid.Another difference is that it is not brokered by any foreign actor. It has been initiated, conducted and concluded by Fatah and Hamas. This may be a sign that there is a growing awareness on both sides that the fragmentation of the Palestinian political forces was weakening the efforts of defending the Palestinian cause.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted immediately to the reconciliation with a very strong negative attitude and said that Mahmoud Abbas has to choose either peace with Israel or cooperation with Hamas.True, Hamas has not yet committed itself to a policy of recognition of the right to exist of Israel. However, Israel will not lose any stake by maintaining the momentum of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, thus giving the benefit of the doubt to the Palestinian side. The Israeli authorities may look at what the reconciled Fatah-Hamas front has to say, rather than refusing in aance to engage in negotiations on the grounds that Hamas is also part of the decision-making hierarchy. The substance of the negotiations should be more important than the form.An agreement reached with the PLO, without Hamas, will not end Israel’s headache in Gaza. It is not realistic to expect that the people of Gaza will abide by the provisions of a deal that Israel might sign with Abbas. The Palestinian question requires that no stone be left unturned.Turkey issued a statement supporting the reconciliation. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan has not yet commented on Netanyahu’s reaction. We will see soon whether it is because Turkey is overwhelmed by more lively domestic issues, or because Turkey’s Middle East policy is entering a new phase where its position will be elaborated more cautiousl

SOURCE: Todays Zaman