The Palestinian unity agreement, and the government that will be formed based on that agreement, clearly do not meet international criteria for ending the boycott of the Hamas government. The agreement does not renounce violence - it is unlikely that it will do so, and it does not provide for disarming of the terror groups. The most we can say, is that it does not reassert the "right to resistance" that is claimed in the Palestinian Prisoners' Document
. It doesn't recognize the right of Israel to exist. There is a vague reference to "respecting past agreements."
The agreement does serve many purposes of the Palestinians, and creates a problem for Israel and for the Middle East Quartet.
It will hopefully put an end to bloody anarchy and internecine squabbling in the Palestinian Authority. It allows the Saudis to say that the Palestinians agree to the Arab Peace Initiative
, and thereby legitimizes Saudi support of the Palestinian Authority, and it creates a basis for claiming that the Western boycott is unfair.
If the agreement succeeds in bringing unity, it is a big victory for Saudi Arabia, and may make the Saudis the prime godfathers of the Palestinian Authority. That would certainly be a positive step, as it would wean the Palestinian Authority from Iranian influence. Ending Hamas-Fatah rivalry is, in the long run, good for Israel and good for peace. Those who think Israel gains anything from the chaos in the West Bank and Gaza are sorely mistaken. The rivalry is also expressed in persistent contests between the groups to see who can be the most anti-Israel. It ensures that no Palestinian leader can make any concessions, because he (and not she in this case - PC has not come to Muslim society) will be branded a traitor. The illogic of anti-Zionist propaganda inevitably blames Israel for the situation at well, and reports that the "occupation" is responsible for Palestinian deaths and Palestinian misery.
However, this agreement is no great bargain for anyone. It is almost certain that various Fatah groups as well as Hamas and Islamic Jihad will still have their own arms, and the Hamas Charter
will still call for eradication of Israel. The renewed eruption of internecine fighting, as well as renewal of extensive terror attacks, is therefore not precluded, and it is unlikely that Hamas will agree to any peace deal with Israel.
As long as each group has its own armed capability, there is no way for the Palestinian authority to live up to any agreement it makes to stop terror.
Though the US and Great Britain expressed reservations about the agreement, French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy was more positive, as might be anticipated. He stated:
I salute the inter-Palestinian agreement reached yesterday in Mecca on the creation of a national unity government...
"The inclusion in this government's programme of respecting international resolutions and agreements signed by the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) constitutes a step in the right direction towards full adherence to the international community's demands."
That is a fairly cautious statement for Douste-Blazy, who is famous for having remarked that Iran is a force for stability in the Middle East.
The agreement is designed as an enabler, to eliminate the Western sanctions against the Palestinians, without really changing any policies. It is a masterful implementation of the disastrous concept, "creative ambiguity," which is another name for saying nothing. Therefore, it "allows Saudis to say" that the Palestinians support the Arab peace initiative. Conversely, it also "allows Hamas to say" that they do not agree to peace with Israel and will never agree to it. It allows the Palestinians to say that they "respect agreements" including the quartet roadmap, and it is supposed to allow the Quartet to say that the Palestinians are now in compliance. However, it will also allow the Palestinians to continue armed resistance. Everyone can say what they like. It is only what they do that matters.
The problem arises because from the beginning, Israel and the Quartet had incorrect criteria for the new government. It doesn't matter what they say, it matters what they do. Even if Hamas agrees to "commit" to past agreements, it is not necessarily meaningful. PLO signed the same agreements and is "commited" to them, but doesn't fullfil its obligations under those agreements. Despite repeated pledges of Fatah leaders to end violence, the Fatah Al-Aqsa brigade sent people to blow themselves up in Israel. Despite repeated agreements to unify security commands, they were never unified - not under Arafat, not under Abbas, and certainly not under the Hamas government. Despite repeated pledges to recognize the existence of Israel, PLO and Mr. Abbas still insist on full right of return for Palestinian refugees, which would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
Support for the Palestinian Authority and the peace process should be based on actions, and not on words.
Note - sources for items cited in this article are given here.
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