May 4, 2011
The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: ‘O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.” (Hamas Charter: Article 7)
The reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas came to a draft agreement in last week. The core of the new Hamas-Fatah deal is agreeing to a unity and power-sharing of two parties mentioned. Palestinian division, playing so-called “moderates” against “extremists”, has been key element of US/EU and Israeli policy almost a decade. If the Palestinian unity deal holds it can open the Middle-East deadlock – but which way remains too see. I see at least three different scenarios as outcome:
Israel makes a deal with Palestinian representatives
No Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – UN recognises Palestine
Israel annexes part of West Bank – cold peace
“This is our answer to the enemy: We have no other home.” (President Peres)
Similar Hamas-Fatah agreements were made in March 2007 In Mecca, which lasted for three months until the outbreak of a five-day war in Gaza, which ended with Hamas taking complete control of the territory. The second agreement was signed in Saana, Yemen on March 2008 by the same signatories as now and it lasted just two days. Last year negotiations were mediated by Germany and Turkey in Damascus, but now entered into a definitive agreement, assisted by the Egyptian intelligence service in Cairo.
After failed previous agreements The Palestinian Authority (excluding Hamas) has had fruitless round of talks with Israel meditated mainly by US, PaliLeaks are giving clear picture offers nad responses to them (more e.g. PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace). During negotiations The Palestinian Authority lost its rest authority as well credibility to achieve any results. Uprisings in Arabstreet this Sring may have been the main reason for Hamas-Fatah deal now as the Palestinian president, Abu Mazen/Abbas, lost his allies – Hosni Mubarak and Omar Suleiman in Egypt. Also Hamas is losing its Syrian protector, Bashar al-Assad. But The Guardian editorial highlights also the third reason which had little to do with either of the above: Abu Mazen’s faith in Barack Obama finally snapped. US failed to deliver even the limited and partial extension of Netanyahu settlement moratorium. The PLO forced a vote on settlements at the UN security council, despite US pressure, leaving the US alone to cast its veto in a 14-1 vote. Preparations for UN recognition of Palestinian statehood proceed apace (again, in opposition to US policy).
The Israeli government immediately sounded the alarm over the prospect of having to deal with Hamas. “The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both,” said prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu warned that the deal could lead to a Hamas takeover of the West Bank. “Hamas aspires to destroy the state of Israel and says so explicitly. The idea of reconciliation with Hamas demonstrates the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and makes one wonder whether Hamas will seize control of (the West Bank) the way it seized control of the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli prime minister said. (Source: The Guardian )
Directly related to the agreement it stopped the joint Israeli-Palestinian security panel because Hamas is of course not allowed into the meetings where joint Israeli-Palestinian (covert) operations against Hamas are planned. The United States is considering to remove its USD 475 million economic support for PA, the EU’s position as a major funder is not yet clear. From its side Israel will hold up an USD 89 million cash transfer to the Palestinian Authority planned for this week to assure that any money transferred to the Palestinians will not reach the militant Hamas organisation.
In parallel, Journal of the Kuwait Al-Rai, referring to Syrian security men, whereas the event of war with Israel, Syria will play a “strong hand” and to compete with Hamas in Tel Aviv bombing missiles. (Both are in possession of Scud missiles; Israel’s new missile defense to respond this threat is described e.g. in my article Will Iron Dome balance the Hamas Terror?)
Deal with united Hamas-Fatah front
“Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” (Hamas Charter: Preamble)
Hamas-Fatah deal means that now Israel may have got a strong counterpart on the Palestinian side as any significant Israeli-Palestinian agreement demands involvement of Hamas. So far the reluctance of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate with Israel is his lack of political legitimacy, he officially holds no power (in January 2009 he unilaterally awarded himself a one-year extension as president). Also Abbas’ prime minister, Salam Fayyad’ authority is limited, he ran in the 2006 parliamentary elections and won two seats out of 132.
Fatah is seen as the more secular organisation, which has supported the Oslo Accords which led to the formation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. Hamas, an Islamic group, opposed the Oslo Accords and continues to refuse to honour past agreements with Israel. The US and EU both view Hamas as a terrorist organisation, anyway its successful imposition of law and order in Gaza have persuaded analysts that peace between Israel and Palestinians is impossible without its involvement.
The factor, which in fact can nullify this negotiation slot, is that Hamas will continue to aim the establishment of an Islamic state in Gaza, the West Bank and the current Israeli territories by force if necessary. Now approved the draft agreement, which final form is planned to sign next week, does not give any indication that the Hamas / Fatah would agree to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past agreements with Israel. Senior Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmud A-Zahar, makes it clear that despite reconciliation agreement his organization with Fatah, Hamas has no intention of changing its attitude toward Israel: “The transition government will not take part in the diplomatic process.” (Source e.g. Ynetnews)
Haarez editorial gives interesting alternative view to deal compared to the one of PM Netanyahu’s, who hastened to denounce the reconciliation agreement. Here Haarez perspective:
Israel can improve its status if it takes its fate into its own hands. It can be the first to welcome the establishment of a Palestinian sister-state, wish it luck, hold out its hand in peace and express a desire to discuss borders, refugees and settlements issues, this time on an entirely different level ? as two sovereign states…On the tactical level, Israel will be able to pass the responsibilities required of a state to the Palestinian side as well, whatever its government.
One base for negotiated peace deal could be the latest Olmert proposal 2008 which may be most far reaching compromise so far.
UN option and the effect of unilateral Palestine actions
Since we can’t defeat Israel in war, we must do it in stages, we must take whatever area of Palestine we can get, establish sovereignty there, and then at the right time, we will have to convince the Arab nations to join us in dealing the final blow to Israel. (Yasser Arafat)
Israel-Palestine conflict is now on crucial stage as September is shaping up to be a key month for peace efforts. The Palestinians say that in the absence of a peace deal, they will take their case to the United Nations. It appears now that a Palestinian state will be imposed – or better say tried to impose – on Israel by the international community as overwhelming majority of U.N. members will vote to give them a state. However since the U.N. General Assembly’s decisions are not legally binding, the vote would be largely symbolic, and it remains unclear what the Palestinians will do after that. International support for the Palestinians has put heavy pressure on Netanyahu to offer his own diplomatic plan to end the impasse. Netanyahu is expected to deliver a major policy speech to U.S. Congress next month. But officials close to the prime minister say he has not yet decided what he plans to say.
Some 110-140 countries is estimated to support Palestinian case in UN, there is also a slight possibility that UNSC will make similar resolution. Besides sending again letter to Jerusalem at its worst there can be discussions about sanctions against Israel; however even today Israel is more diplomatically isolated than ever before and also outside governments there is a growing civil BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) against Israel. Despite this economically life in Israel has never been better. According latest data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel’s economy grew 7.8 percent in the last quarter of 2010, international trade is rising steeply as in the first quarter of 2011, exports rose 27.3%. compared grew of 19.9% in the final quarter of last year. Imports rose respectively 34.7% and 38.9%. Despite hard statements EU remains Israel’s largest trading partner and even ally of Hamas and Iran Turkey’s trade with Israel reached an all time high last year. So international isolation does not seem effect very much.
Unilateral Israeli actions
“(Peace) initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement… Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the infidels as arbitrators in the lands of Islam… There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.” (Hamas Charter: Article 13)
Jerusalem Post reports that ‘Annexation for declaration’ idea advancing in Knesset . True, the Israeli Likud party is already preparing a draft law, which accompanied Israel in Judea and Samaria, or at least its a lot areas with Jewish mayority as well as the Jordan River Valley; this in case that the PA government take its proposal at the UN.
As Likud MK Danny Danon said, that
A Palestinian declaration of statehood would officially bury the Oslo Accords, which state that final borders will be decided via negotiations and that unilateral actions constitute violation of the accords…The Palestinians declaring a state would free us of all the diplomatic, security, and economic commitments we made in the Oslo Accords.
Danon favors responding to a Palestinian declaration of statehood by annexing all of Area C, which includes all the West Bank’s Jewish settlements and empty land. He said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should follow the example of his predecessors Levi Eshkol, who annexed eastern Jerusalem, and Menachem Begin, who annexed the Golan Heights. Area C Israeli 59% of WB land and 4% of WB Palestinians.
Israel’s unilateral actions can be understood from its security driven policy. The main thread from Hamas-Fatah deal is that as more motivated, well organised partner with popular support Hamas will override Fatah in West Bank like they have done in Gaza. If Hamas keeps its aim the destruction of Israel, the deal and Hamas takeover would allow it to deploy Iranian and Syrian-supplied Katyusha missiles near all Israel urban centers. From Israel security perspective this brings most of Israel population under thread of hostile missiles and rockets. Be’er Sheva already has been attacked by Grad Katyusha missiles from Gaza, as have been Haifa and the Galilee from Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon.
- Map by Americans for a Safe Israel (ASFI)
For the Palestinians internal unity creates a change for developing a new national platform, strategy and representative PLO, which can also implement agreements if needed. If Hamas-Fatah deal makes a commitment to non-violence and recognises also Israel’s right to existence it might be a partner for Israel to make new peace deal. The effect and nature of Hamas-Fatah deal will be tested soon as Palestinian groups on Facebook are calling for violent uprisings against the citizens of Israel, openly planning a Third Intifada on May 15th, 2011. Previous intifadas resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians through suicide bombings and other horrific acts of terror. They are aggressively pursuing their goal of reaching one million supporters.
If Hamas-Fatah deal is neutralizing terrorism it may boost the international community and especially US to put pressure to both Israel and Palestine authorities to find negotiated common solution. This way the deal really can be what Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu called “a key window of opportunity” for the entire region. One crucial point for outcome will be PM Netanyahu’s speech before the US Congress next month, will it appease Obama admistration and EU-3 (Cameron, Sarkozy and Merkel) about Israeli intentions in peace process.
One can guess that I am not very hopeful about the peace deal soon after Hamas-Fatah agreement, at least in its current form. Hamas should first change its fundamential course to apply non-violent methods and accept Israel security concerns, and Israel needs time to trust Hamas intentions. Perhaps the best outcome related to three scenarios mentioned could be limited cold peace or truce, plus restricted trade agreements.
Earlier and now I still consider sc Three State-Option the most pragmatic solution. As Egypt now is opening Rafah border crossing and when its current leadership better cooperates with Hamas it would be easier than before logistically and politically annex Gaza with Egypt e.g. as autonomius province with cultural and economical independence. Annexing Palestinian West Bank areas similar way with Jordan could decrease Israeli security concerns and hence allow smaller buffer zones and less fragmented area for Palestinians. (More e.g. in The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )
Conflicting Views of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Every year in USA, campus hate groups such as the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine join a festival called “Israel Apartheid Week”, which also is part of the growing BDS movement (BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel). As response the David Horowitz Freedom Center is sponsoring counter-protests on more than 50 college campuses, as part of its Islamo-Fascism Awareness Campaign. From banner below one can open some of the claims from Palestinian side and counter claims from Israeli side to highlight the big difference of views in Israeli-Palestinian conflict.