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  Global Views
Abbas, Hamas, Conundrum of Palestinian Unity
Special Contribution
By Hadi-Abdalhad Ijla
The writer, Hadi-Abdalhad Ijla, is DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst) fellow in Public Policy and Governance. He writes on Hamas, Political Islam and Policy. He has worked in the Fateh Foreign Affair Commission for the last two years.

Last week, Palestinian division met a fitting yet belated demise, ended by a multi-state mediation. Egypt, Yemen, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey made intensive efforts toward this end. Palestinian reconciliation was necessary and should be met with exaltation, joy and complete satisfaction.

Alwehada Alwataniya, or "National Unity," was a demand not only to meet the calls of the Palestinian youth who took to the street these last few months, but also a genuine and clever step to kill many birds with one stone. Palestinian unity has complex international and regional implications. Palestinians may have difficulty coping with the dues of the reconciliation agreement. The Hamas-Fateh agreement, which was signed in Cairo under Egypt’s army council, could be interpreted in different ways.

Hamas agreed to sign the agreement not because they responded to youth calls, but as a pressure from the regional dynamics in general and the political unrest in Syria. Hamas has a long record of suppressing people, banning demonstrations, protests; for instance, they killed more than a dozen at Arafat’s memorial anniversary in 2007 when they chanted slogans against Hamas’s rule in Gaza. Why reconciliation now? What are the reasons and implications for Fateh-Hamas agreement? Most of the answers have to do with the development in the Middle East and Fateh- internal dispute.

Hamas and Fateh always had their fears and remarks on Egypt’s paper; however, this time Hamas responded positively and signed the paper. Abbas is a seasonal political leader who thinks twice to take rational decisions. He is smarter than his Predecessor Arafat in taking down his rivals based on long term vision without bullets. The Fateh-Hamas unity agreement was signed in Cairo for the following reasons:

Division- Israeli Trojan Horse: Abbas has done good job by pulling the rug from under Israeli PM Netanyahu and his government. As Abbas said in his speech in Cairo “It is ironic that Israel, which took Palestinian division as an excuse to evade its obligations and the peace requirements, now seeks to take the end of division as an excuse to carry on with its policy evasion”. Abbas, who is much more interested in achieving a final accord with Israel than any party else, put an end to Israeli rhythm of two parties? With whom we negotiate? He is preparing the world and the Palestinians for September 2011, which will witness the resurgence of a Palestinian independent state.

Hamas-Fateh unity agreement isolated Israel more. Israel will be subject to criticism and may be wigging if they launched any attack and kept settlement expansion in Palestinian territory, classified according to 242 SC resolution occupied territories. Israel, these days, is not in a position to maneuver. Netanyahu has no long anymore trump card in his hands, especially after Ben Laden’s death by Americans.

Dahlan’s Syndrome: Mohammed Dahlan has been the strong man of Fateh in Gaza, but recently, he became a strong rival of Abbas. He has been accused of gossiping about Abbas’s private family business. Abbas set an interrogation commission that suspended his membership in Fateh Central Committee.

Political unrest in ME: As soon as Mubarak was ousted, Hamas have seen this as an opportunity to moisten their relationship with Egypt. They believed that Mubarak’s regime antagonized them. Abbas lost his strong ally and back in the Middle East, which stands with him and was his vice in front of Hamas. Al-Assad’s regime is experiencing hard times. Al-Assad is engaged in an uphill battle against civil, peaceful protesters. Hamas could not condemn the oppression and killing of protestors as they did with Mubarak’s regime. Some Arabic news websites had recently published two stories; the first is that the Syrian regime asked Hamas’s leadership to prepare to leave Syria; the second is that Egypt will allow Hamas to open a representative office in Cairo. Anyway, the second is close to the truth. This encouraged Hamas to sign the agreement. Hamas could not hesitate to agree in front of another tempting offer of opening the Rafah Crossing, allowing them to pass cash money and freedom movement between Gaza and Egypt. Besides that, Hamas’s leadership wants to ensure safe harbor in case Syria closed its doors in their faces. Egyptian government and its army want to achieve something amid the chaos that storm Egyptian politic. By urging Hamas to sign the reconciliation agreement, they achieve two things; first, ensure that the next Arab League Secretary is Egyptian. Second, to inform other states that Egypt has taken back the lead of Arab States. .

Palestinian Youth movement: Abbas and Hamas have been caught by surprise with the number and will of young Palestinians, who were inspired by the Arab spring; they called for protests utilizing social media tools for protests. Abbas and Hamas equally, got the message sound and clear; they realized that in case they did not meet the demand of the people as soon as possible, Palestinians will punish them in any coming elections. Palestinians are known for their political judgment based on history when it comes to public policy implementation. Giving the fact that Hamas and Fateh failed during the last five years in achieving any basic development or upgrading in Palestinians’ lives. They will try to avoid what happened to Fateh in the 2006 elections.

As for Hamas and Fateh agreement, it is very clear that Palestinians are officially united. Soon, there will be one government for both the Gaza strip and the West Bank. This government will adopt Abbas’s agenda and work on domestic affairs only.

Now, Europe and the United states should not repeat the same mistake of 2007 when they boycotted Hamas and isolated Palestinian Authority Hamas-led government. This is an amazing opportunity for the international community; including the USA and the European Union to open channels with Hamas through PA and PLO, and engage Hamas in the peace process through “Process of Adoption” that ensures the declaration of an independent Palestinian state on 1967’s borders. This could be the last chance for Israel and the US with Abbas. Whoever the next president of Palestinians will be, he won’t have the potentialities and the courage to negotiate on issues that Abbas did.

The Palestinian division has come to an end, but the real challenge is on-ground implementation and facilitating Hamas’s to engagement in the Palestinian political system as a political party not as an armed militia.




 

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