Whistling in the wind
Saleh Al-Naami wonders if anyone is convinced by inter-Palestinian reconciliation
The anger was clear on Ahmed El-Geshi's face as he listened to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas explaining on Palestinian TV why his government had postponed voting on the Goldstone Report.
"I can't listen to these lies anymore," El-Geshi said, turning off his television. "We've been waiting for him to say something new, but it's the same old broken record. He refuses to take responsibility for the crime of delaying the Goldstone Report. He will not act to finalise a comprehensive national reconciliation deal."
Disappointment that Abbas's speech betrayed a lack of will to achieve reconciliation was widespread. Political analyst Nehad El-Sheikh Khalil cited several portions of the speech which he said demonstrated that Abbas was "not serious" about ending inter-Palestinian divisions. These included the statement that his only goal in entering dialogue was to hold legislative and presidential elections and an allusion to his hope that elections would result in toppling Hamas from power in Gaza.
"When Abbas attacks Hamas and talks about the 'emirate of darkness' in Gaza, it is clear any reconciliation agreement will not end internal strife," argues Khalil. "Abbas believes elections will remove Hamas from power and therefore he is keen on holding elections." He told Al-Ahram Weekly it was "regretful" Abbas had attempted to explain Palestinian anger following the Goldstone incident as a conspiracy by Hamas.
"This shows that the man does not realise the magnitude of his mistake."
Khaled Meshaal, head of Hamas's Political Bureau, blamed the Palestinian leadership for the failure to reach a comprehensive national reconciliation accord. In an address to the Golan Forum in Damascus on Sunday, Meshaal said the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) was incapable of signing a national reconciliation agreement because of its vulnerability to Israeli and US blackmail. He added that the PA remains unable to release a single political detainee without clearance from General Keith Dayton, US security coordinator to the PA and the effective head of the security apparatus in Ramallah.
Dawoud Shehab, spokesman for the Islamic Jihad Movement (IJM), argues the Abbas's address has further eroded any ability to make decisions on a national level. He described Abbas's reasoning as "baseless", and called on the president to apologise to the Palestinian people for his actions.
Taher Al-Nunu, spokesman for Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's Hamas-run government in Gaza, told the Weekly that Abbas's speech was a blow to Egyptian efforts to reconcile Palestinian factions. "His words do not demonstrate that he is ready for reconciliation or its requisites," said Al-Nunu.
Abbas's address came after Hamas and Cairo agreed to the postponement of a reconciliation deal. An informed Palestinian source told the Weekly the Egyptians agreed to delay the agreement until after Eid Al-Adha in December. Egypt explained to Hamas it would not be possible to reach agreement by 26 October given the anger among Palestinians over the Goldstone episode. At the same time, Cairo rejected Hamas's suggestion to delay for only a few days so as not to appear as if Hamas is in control of the national dialogue.
According to the source Egypt wants Hamas to sign the agreement without objecting to any clauses, and agree to hold elections on 28 June 2010. Hamas has said it will consider the suggestions.
Ghazi Hamad, a leading Hamas official and the point man in contacts between the group and the Egyptian government, said that Hamas is committed to signing a reconciliation deal regardless of the Goldstone crisis. Hamad warned, however, about over-optimism in ending divisions with a stroke of a pen. He described the Egyptian-brokered document as a skeleton agreement, allowing each party to interpret it in a way that best serves its interests.
"The deal contains broad outlines, leaving it open to further negotiation to agree on how to move forward," Hamad told the Weekly. Putting pen to paper does not necessarily mean turning over a new leaf, he noted, citing several problematic issues, including the creation of a security force in charge of law and order in Gaza. "After the signing ceremony is over, several rounds of talks will be needed. There's also the issue of whether the security overhaul will include the West Bank, as per Hamas's request, or only the Gaza Strip, as demanded by Fatah."
The proposal to create a multi-factional committee to administer Gaza until elections are held is, says Hamad, devoid of detail, stipulating neither the mandate of the committee nor its relationship with Haniyeh's government in Gaza or with President Abbas. He believes the article pertaining to elections could alone derail the agreement since it remains contingent on the good will of the parties. It stipulates holding legislative, presidential and Palestinian National Council (PNC) elections "although it is almost impossible for the parties to agree on the mechanism of electing the PNC because of the large numbers of Palestinian refugees around the world."
Hamad doubts any reconciliation agreement will be worth the paper it is printed on because each party will only try to implement aspects that serve their own interests.
Abbas will attempt to push for legislative and presidential elections in the hope that although the people are critical of him and his aides, the siege of Gaza will convince voters not to re-elect Hamas. Meanwhile, Hamas will seek to delay the elections, and, together with other factions, demand a revision of the PA's political agenda, especially regarding negotiations with Israel in light of continued settlement building. It will also make other demands which it knows Abbas will reject.
The general sense among Palestinians is that any end to divisions is contingent on regional developments which might change the balance of internal Palestinian politics.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Washington had informed Egypt that it rejects any reconciliation agreement sponsored by Cairo between Fatah and Hamas. George Mitchell, US Envoy to the Middle East, was said to have told Egyptian Chief of General Intelligence Omar Suleiman and Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit that a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas would undermine efforts to reach a political settlement of the conflict with Israel. Haaretz added that Mitchell stressed any future Palestinian government must comply with Quartet conditions, which includes rejecting resistance to occupation and recognition of agreements already signed between the PA and Israel.
Al-Jazeera reports that the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will hold a special session in Geneva, as requested by the PA, in which the Goldstone Report is expected to be addressed. The session is expected to begin today. The PA request was co-sponsored by 18 member states of the UNHRC: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Indonesia, Jordan, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Senegal
The link: http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2009/968/fr1.htm