Thursday,25 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1371, (30 November - 6 December 2017)
Thursday,25 April, 2019
Issue 1371, (30 November - 6 December 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Cairo called to intervene

Palestinian conciliation is teetering, with little progress made on lauded agreements


Cairo called to intervene
Cairo called to intervene
Al-Ahram Weekly

Observers and analysts believe Palestinian conciliation is in jeopardy and call for strong Egyptian intervention to impose clear requirements and conditions as well as specific non-negotiable goals for the two sides to apply according to an exact timeline. This deal would be based on previous agreements, especially since more than 10 years have passed and division has proven to the people of Gaza that they are the only ones paying the price.

Analysts say Egypt is responsible for making progress on conciliation since it is threatened by armed groups in Sinai, and terrorists are taking advantage of the lack of control over the Gaza Strip. They further add that weapons of resistance — whether they are left in the hands of the resistance or are neutralised — will have little impact in ending divisions. In fact, this will have no impact on the enemy if they are used in the war against the Israeli occupation. Analysts also warn against these weapons, they are being used to control the Palestinian people, or become fertile ground for generating terrorists, as a public platform for Hizbullah and Iran.

Mohannad Abdel-Hamid, a Palestinian political analyst, believes the deal should be exact with clear points and clear definitions of every clause, and that Egypt must be the one that specifies the formula which does not have to be the same as the 2005 agreement. It could be developed and adapted to guarantee international support, which would facilitate holding elections after reaching a national social pact defining binding common national interests for the Palestinian people.

Hussein Al-Sheikh, member of Fatah’s Central Committee, said lifting sanctions on the Gaza Strip is linked to enabling the government to operate in Gaza and take over financial and other responsibilities there. So far, he said, the government has control over only five per cent of Gaza.

Asked whether Hamas is being deceptive about handing over power to the national consensus government, Palestinian analyst Ehab Moharmah said Hamas took the initiative of dissolving the administrative committee, handed over border crossings, and is working on handing over control to the consensus government. This means it opened the door to conciliation and is applying the Cairo Understandings. However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has not changed his position so far on sanctions against Gaza residents in place since Hamas took control there. Moharmah added that national unity contradicts demands by the Fatah delegation tethering government services and its obligations in Gaza to taking control.

Fayez Abu Shamaleh, another Palestinian analyst, said if Palestinians are sincere with each other and spoke honestly, they will realise that conciliation is impossible while security coordination continues between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel. This is a truth everyone must admit, says Shamaleh, because security coordination and Palestinian conciliation are opposites that cannot coexist. He wondered how the PA could cooperate in the West Bank with Israeli intelligence against Palestinian resistance and at the same time cooperate in Gaza with the resistance against Israeli intelligence.

He continued that Cairo talks have not resulted in much so far since the embargo on Gaza continues, sanctions have not eased, conciliation ran into Israeli objections and stipulations by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when he told Abbas, “you either work with me (Israel) or with Hamas. You have to choose.”

Abbas made up his mind some time back and chose negotiations with Israel as the only path, and unabashed security coordination over all else.

Abu Shamaleh said these are the facts no one can deny. Looking at freedoms issues, for example, how can this issue move forward in the West Bank without blocking Israeli incursions into towns, villages and refugee camps there? Or without rejecting lists by Israeli intelligence of wanted resistance figures. Or without ending Israeli interference in Palestinian curricula, or Israeli assaults on media freedoms on television, newspapers, magazines and websites where Palestinians express their opinions and political aspirations.

He further believes that Israeli arrogance on the ground should give Palestinians incentive to demand immediate conciliation since it is the practical response to Israel withholding Palestinian tax money. Palestinian conciliation is the graveyard for Israeli smugness; conciliation is a Palestinian demand and cannot be achieved without organised and public action demanding that the PA apply the decision of the Palestinian Central Council issued 6 March 2015 requiring an immediate end to security coordination.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely revealed that Tel Aviv informed Washington of its conditions for political settlement in the Middle East and said it would not compromise on them. Hotovely said these include rejecting any sovereignty other than Israel’s over the area between the Mediterranean Sea and River Jordan, refusing to vacate any settlements, and maintaining Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel. She added a fourth condition: refusing the return of refugees, even to Palestinian areas.

Responding to whether there is a Palestinian leader who could possibly agree to these terms, Hotovely said Palestinians “do not have a will for peace neither do their leaders, which is why we cannot find a single Palestinian leader prepared to accept our conditions”. She continued that “Palestinian society needs a culture of peace and is not mature enough to make peace, or administer an independent state. What happened in Gaza has taught us they elect terrorist groups to run their affairs.”

Alaaeddin Abu Zeinah, a writer, discussed what the Americans are calling the “deal of the century” to solve the Palestinian issue, noting that the US demand for “thinking outside the box” on the Palestinian issue means outside “the box” of international legitimacy. This would mean abandoning UN Resolution 242 stipulating the “withdrawal of Israeli forces from lands occupied in the last conflict”, referring to 1967. Also, UN Resolution 194 which allows “the return as soon as possible of refugees who want to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbours”. Restitution must also be paid for property if they decide not to return home and for all loss or harm to their property. It also means ignoring UN Resolution 2334 that called for “an end to Israeli settlements on Palestinian land” and called on Israel “to stop settlements, including in East Jerusalem, and the illegality of Israel building settlements on land occupied after 1967”.

Abu Zeinah asserts that in the Palestinian conscience these resolutions were unfair because they ignore the documented reality that Palestine is an Arab land belonging to the Palestinian people before 1948, but various considerations made restoring 1967 territories, the right of return for refugees, dismantling settlements and removing settlers from the West Bank the highest offer for creating a possibly viable Palestinian state. Leaks about the “deal of the century” reveal “an end” of the Palestinian cause by dismantling it forever, and undermining the Palestinian plan for liberation.

He added it is objectively unreasonable for the US to mediate a solution for the Palestinian problem, and handing over the issue to figures known for their firm bias towards the Zionist entity means there will be no integrity to mediation, even if well intended. They should have thought “inside the box” to begin with and come up with ways to apply UN resolutions, which the Palestinians accepted even though they were unfair. Instead, they are only thinking “outside the box” to further humiliate the Palestinians and usurp their rights. This is not a solution for anything; history will be the judge.

But we cannot blame the US, since the Palestinian house has been in disarray for a decade, quarrelling over minor issues rather than focusing on the bigger picture. Each side describes the other as traitors and refuses to compromise and close Palestinian ranks to defend the national cause and sanctities.

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