by Iqbal Jassat (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 40, No. 3, Jumada' al-Ula', 1432)
Unity at last between Hamas and Fatah! Shocking says Israel. Unacceptable declares America. The American regime headed by Barack Obama retained its back-to-the-wall approach by declaring that Hamas was “a terrorist organization” and that any Palestinian government would have to “renounce violence”, respect past “peace deals” and recognize Israel’s “right to exist”.
Unity at last between Hamas and Fatah! Shocking says Israel. Unacceptable declares America.
“The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both,” fumed Israel’s rightwing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on television. That the Zionists think the Palestinians cannot even unite without their approval reflects their arrogance.
The American regime headed by Barack Obama retained its back-to-the-wall approach by declaring that Hamas was “a terrorist organization” and that any Palestinian government would have to “renounce violence”, respect past “peace deals” and recognize Israel’s “right to exist”. There was no question of Israel, the greatest perpetrator of violence, to renounce it or to respect “peace deals”. Nor was there any question that no country in the world can demand the “right to exist.” Countries are recognized and diplomatic relations established with them but there is absolutely no requirement in international law that a country’s “right” to exist must be recognized. If the Palestinians were to do that, it would mean they have to recognize that Israel has the “right” to steal their land. That is ludicrous.
As Palestinians celebrate news of the agreement reached between Hamas and Fatah in Cairo on April 27, reports from Israel suggest that the Netanyahu regime is extremely angry and dismayed with President Mahmoud Abbas for daring to defy Tel Aviv. The peace process is a fraud perpetrated on the Palestinian people and dangled before them like a carrot without ever getting anywhere. This charade must be brought to an end.
The Palestinians are seeking international recognition for statehood at the United Nations by September. Abbas has repeatedly said that unity must be restored for a credible case to be made. Other recent developments also played a role.
Extensive secret talks between the factions have been hosted by the post-Mubarak interim government in Cairo and included a number of independent Palestinians along with key Egyptian players. Details released at a press conference on April 27 revealed that the groups had reached an understanding on forming a transitional Palestinian unity government and holding elections in the near future. The Hamas delegation led by Mousa Abu Marzouk and Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmed announced the deal, which took most observers by surprise.
Ahmad said after the news conference in Cairo: “The changes in the Arab region and the political upheaval contributed to reducing the pressure on the Palestinian factions, and by pressure I mean the negative kind of pressure.” He said that he was referring to “the changing rules of the game in the region.” Another reflection of these “changing rules” was Egypt’s restoration of diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran that Mubarak had refused to renew under US-Israeli pressure.
Since the entire Muslim East and North Africa is in “change mode” following the dramatic removal of powerful and long-entrenched dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, it behooves the Palestinian leaders to respond to their own internal challenges. In addition to this climate of revolution sweeping the Arabian Peninsula and the Holy Land that has inspired both factions to make adaptations, perhaps the biggest single factor is that Fatah is fed up with America’s unabashed pro-Zionist policies.
Some shocking revelations contained in a recent Newsweek article by Dan Ephron point to Abbas’ extreme displeasure with the Obama administration: “It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze,” Abbas explained. “I said OK, I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with the ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, ‘jump’. Three times he did it.”
Abbas also criticized the mediation efforts of Obama’s special envoy George Mitchell who has shuttled between the Israelis and Palestinians for more than two years. “Every visit by Mitchell, we talked to him and gave him some ideas. At the end we discovered that he did not convey any of these ideas to the Israelis. What does it mean?”
Another telling example cited in Ephron’s interview with the embattled leader of Fatah, deals with threats from Obama and Hillary Clinton to withhold the $475 million in aid if Abbas did not withdraw a UN Security Council resolution demanding that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlements on lands stolen from the Palestinians.
Ephron relates that for 55 minutes on the phone, Obama first reasoned with and then pressured Abbas to withdraw the resolution. Then the American president politely made what Abbas describes as a “list of sanctions” Palestinians would endure if the vote went ahead. After informing Obama that he would not withdraw the resolution, Clinton followed up with a 30-minute exhortation of her own. More pressure followed. Lower-level US officials also phoned several influential Palestinian figures in Ramallah and asked them to use their sway over the Palestinian leader.
This account by Ephron provides a number of clues to why Abbas may have accepted some of Hamas’ key demands in order to reconcile and forge a new unity to advance Palestine’s quest for freedom and justice. The agreement has been hailed by both sides as “historic” while predictably the Netanyahu regime has reacted with bitter hostility. He has issued an ultimatum to Abbas to choose between Hamas or Israel.
It is clear that neither Israel nor the Obama administration will tolerate Hamas’ ascendancy given their enormous efforts to destroy and annihilate the Islamic movement’s unyielding commitment to free Palestine.
While the prospect for change in the matrix of Israel/Palestine politics is inevitable, it remains to be seen whether Abbas and his Fatah movement will be able to sustain this agreement in the face of pressure and the range of dirty tactics including blackmail deployed by the US and Israel. Meanwhile, there was some good news for Gaza. On April 28, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Araby told al-Jazeera television that his government had decided to lift the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Not only people but also goods would pass through freely. Both the US and the European Union (EU) have criticized Egypt’s announcement and said this violates the agreement Cairo had reached with them. One wonders what kind of an agreement is it that would starve innocent people, including children to death in Gaza to appease the Zionist entity. The US has threatened to cut off all funding to the Palestinian Authority. Such poisoned money was meant to keep the Palestinians divided and therefore, weak.
It is clear, neither the US nor the EU have woken up to the new reality in the region.