Thursday, April 28, 2011

From Israel: Back on Track

Arlene Kushner
Arlene from Israel
28 April '11

Me, that is. Certainly not this part of the world. I'm post-Pesach, post a major writing assignment, and ready to look at this part of the world (oi!) via my postings...


The big news now is the purported unity agreement between Fatah (the PA) and Hamas that has been secretly brokered by Egypt.

As I share information please keep in mind that it's all a bit nebulous and "iffy," with conflicting reports coming from different sources.

It is apparent why this is coming about now:

The PA wants to go to the UN in order to be recognized as a state in September. Its leaders believe their chances of pulling this off are better if they can say they are seeking a state that encompasses all Palestinians, not just half of their people.

Hamas, for its part, is concerned with increased international credibility. Without a doubt, Hamas is also watching the instability in other nations -- Egypt, Syria -- with which it has links and seeking to maximize its own stability.


An aside here: Even though the PA is much more like Hamas than most people perceive -- both want Israel destroyed, etc. etc. -- there is one significant difference. Fatah is still a nationalist movement, while Hamas, as a jihadist movement, is interested in an international caliphate.


The impetus for striking the deal was apparently Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the Hamas's politburo, and Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad. Announcement was first made by Egyptian intelligence via the Egyptian state news agency, MENA.

What is known about the deal at this point is that both sides have initialed an agreement, with signing to take place soon in Cairo. A caretaker government of neutral professionals -- persons who would satisfy both parties -- is slated to take over shortly, with this government then making preparations for presidential and legislative elections in a year. The election committee will be decided upon by both factions. Political prisoners will be released.


According to Reuters, Taher Al-Nono, the Hamas spokesman in Gaza, has declared that "All points of differences have been overcome."

And I will declare that I do not believe it for an instant. The "unity" that is being forged is superficial, with Hamas still in charge in Gaza and the PA in Judea and Samaria. The big unknown remains who will control what security forces: there is to be the formation of a "joint security higher committee."

How many times have the parties attempted "reconciliation," only to find it didn't work? What they have done now is determine that the semblance of unity would suit all concerned. How long this will last is anyone's guess.


One thing that is clear is that whenever Fatah and Hamas strike an agreement, it is Fatah that makes concessions, and Hamas that comes out ahead. In this instance, at the moment, I am seeing two things. One, that there will be re-structuring of the PLO so as to include Hamas participation; this is something Hamas has sought for a long time.

And then, it has apparently been agreed, at Hamas's insistence, that Salam Fayyad, who is currently PA prime minister, will not be part of the professional interim government that is to be set up. What is significant here is that Fayyad is the darling of the West, the one who presents the most moderate image. It is largely because of him that Western nations have been forthcoming with the support for the PA that they have. This decision, then, in essence, is Fatah thumbing its nose at the West.

Should this "unity" Palestinian entity achieve statehood (I do not think it will), the dominance of Hamas suggests that it would ultimately be in charge.


Prime Minister Netanyahu's response to this turn of events was quite clear:

"Palestinian Authority needs to choose between peace with the people of Israel and peace with Hamas. You cannot have peace with both, because Hamas aspires to destroy the State of Israel, and I'll say it openly.
"Hamas fires rockets at our cities and anti-tank missiles at our children. I think the mere idea of reconciliation demonstrates the Palestinian Authority's weakness, and brings up the question of whether Hamas will take over Judea and Samaria as it did Gaza.

""I hope the PA makes the right choice, to choose peace with Israel. The choice is hers."


Mahmoud al-Zahar of Hamas then responded that, "Our plan does not involve negotiations with Israel or recognizing it. It will be impossible for an interim government to take part in the peace process with Israel."

Following this, however, Abbas suggested that negotiations would still be possible following the establishment of the interim government because the PLO, which he heads, is responsible for negotiations.

What we see here, of course, is evidence that all disagreements have not been resolved.

My first, question, among many, is what about the agreement that Hamas would now be a constituent element of the PLO?

What sort of game is Abbas playing -- pretending that he is prepared to negotiate, when a faction within the state we would be negotiating about is dedicated overtly to our destruction?

It becomes enormously convoluted -- this game playing.


Abbas then responded to what Netanyahu had said, commenting that, "Netanyahu and Lieberman said yesterday that I had to choose between Israel and Hamas, but Hamas is part of the Palestinian people, and whether or not you like or agree with them, they are part of our nation and they cannot be extracted from us."


I am pleased to say that Obama has seemed disgruntled with the "unity" announcement. This throws a monkey wrench into his plans for negotiations.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor issued a statement saying that: "To play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles and renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist."


Significantly, there are key Congresspeople who are suggesting that the Fatah-Hamas merger might spell the end of US support.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, declared, "The reported agreement between Fatah and Hamas means that a Foreign Terrorist Organization which has called for the destruction of Israel will be part of the Palestinian Authority government. U.S. taxpayer funds should not and must not be used to support those who threaten U.S. security, our interests, and our vital ally, Israel."

Others who are on board with this approach include Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), the senior Democrat on the foreign operations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee; Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY), the senior Democrat on the House Middle East subcommittee and Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill), who is on the Senate Appropriations Committee.


In closing let me carry the idea of discontinuing aid to the Palestinians one step further: If there is a joint Hamas-Fatah government, the US is forbidden by its own laws from providing it with assistance. US funds cannot go to a terrorist entity. We will need members of Congress to be fully cognizant of these laws (some, I know, are not). I'll have more on this is due course.

© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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