Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring coming early for Hamas

While little progress in Palestinian reconciliation appears on the horizon, events in Egypt may have levelled the playing field for Hamas, writes Khaled Amayreh in the West Bank 

Despite affirmations to the contrary, the most recent effort at restoring Palestinian national unity between Fatah and Hamas seems to have fizzled out. Fatah and Hamas officials have been trading accusations on their respective sincerity about ending the three-year rift between them.

Hamas is yet to announce a definitive date for the now uncertain visit to the Gaza Strip Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas was said to be planning. Some Hamas leaders have accused Abbas and the Fatah leadership in the West Back of seeking a "public relations visit" in order to throw the proverbial ball into Hamas's court.

Hamas, which is not unanimous in its views about the visit, has demanded that proper and appropriate preparations be made in order to ensure the success of Abbas's visit. These include accord on divisive political issues, a halt to politically motivated detentions, the release of political detainees, and a prompt end to the police state atmosphere in the West Bank.

Hamas said Fatah's refusal to deal seriously with these requirements meant that latter was not really interested in reconciling with Hamas.

"We have asked him [Chairman Abbas] more than once to send a delegation to Gaza or to any place he wants in order to arrange for the visit. Part of these arrangements is tackling the remaining issues of dispute, so his visit would be a culmination of an arrangement between the two parties [Fatah and Hamas]. But Abbas seems to want a merely formal visit unrelated to actual reconciliation, which is unacceptable. Hamas's position is agreement first, then reconciliation."

Predictably, Fatah officials reacted angrily, saying that Hamas was against the principle of reconciliation because it feared the outcome of free and democratic elections where the Palestinian voter would be the ultimate arbiter. "These objections by Hamas constitute a tacit rejection of the generous gesture of President Abbas to go to Gaza and reach a final agreement and turn this sorry page of our history," said parliamentarian Azzam Al-Ahmed.

Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar dismissed Al-Ahmed's comments as "out of line with truth and out of line with reality". "We can easily reach an agreement by leaving aside many hard issues unresolved. However, such an agreement wouldn't stand for five minutes. We are simply unwilling to make the same mistakes again."

Meanwhile, both sides seem to be waiting for an active resumption of Egyptian efforts to revive stalled reconciliation talks, earlier held under the stewardship of former General Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. The ruling Higher Council of the Armed Forces (HCAF) in Cairo recently hosted Fatah and Hamas leaders, including Al-Ahmed and Al-Zahar.

Al-Zahar, who was in Cairo this week, said that Egypt was not inclined to take part in the dialogue between Fatah and Hamas. "The Egyptian brothers want to be observers rather than participants; they want to let the Palestinians reach an agreement by themselves without any external interference or pressure. Their main demand is that the final reconciliation declaration and subsequent ceremony be held in Cairo."

Hamas has already invited Fatah and other major Palestinian factions for "an important meeting" in Gaza to discuss reconciliation efforts. During the meeting, which took place on Tuesday, 5 April, one Hamas leader, Ismail Radwan, pointed out that the Egyptian leadership promised to lift the siege on Gaza and ease up travel movement through the Rafah Crossing.

Another Islamist leader, Ismail Al-Ashkar, revealed that two meetings took place two days earlier in Cairo, one headed by Arab League Chief Amr Moussa and the other with the presence of Egypt's ruling military leadership. HCAF has also invited PA President Abbas to visit Cairo, probably on Wednesday, 6 April, for a review of Palestinian reconciliation efforts. 

According to Palestinian sources, current efforts are focusing on restructuring the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in a way that would ensure fair representation of all Palestinian factions, including Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.

Hamas was visibly reluctant to sign the bridging document prepared by the ousted regime of ex-President Hosni Mubarak. The Palestinian Islamist movement privately accused the Mubarak regime of favouring Fatah. However, Hamas has few or no reservations about the new government of Egypt, which is viewed as generally free of the heavy anti-Islamist legacy that characterised the outgoing Mubarak regime.

For its part, the new leadership in Cairo says it doesn't favour any Palestinian faction over another and that its main concern is the restoration of Palestinian national unity.

Palestinians in general are hopeful that revolutionary changes in the Arab world, especially in Egypt, will be beneficial to the Palestinian cause and militate against Israeli hegemony and bellicosity in the region. Israel viewed the Mubarak regime as a strategic asset for the Jewish state. (end)

Submitted to PalestineFreeVoice from Khaled Amayreh April 9, 2011

"Palestine is the heart of Arab countries" - PalestineFreeVoice


Over 5.25 million square miles of territory belongs to members of the Arab League and is the home to over 330 million people. Not every Arab state are interested  in the genuine well-being of the Palestinian people. We must not only hope for revolutionary changes in the Arab world, especially in Egypt, we must over reach the mindset of the Zionist Israel and its warrantors.

Hiyam Noir

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