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Everyone agrees that the Palestinian unity deal reached in Mecca is VERY IMPORTANT. It has brought us to a crossroads. Everone has a different opinion about where the roads lead, however. The Israel government is considering suspending ties with the Palestinians, because the deal does not recognize Israel and does undertake to end violence. The US is either boycotting the Palestinian government or reserving judgement. A poll shows that about half of Jewish Israelis want the Israeli government to negotiate with the Palestinians, but a different poll shows that most Israelis oppose cooperation with the Palestinian government.

The Hamas made their views abundantly clear. Hamas says will not recognize Israel. They will never make peace with Israel, and the deal doesn't commit them to making peace with Israel. According to a Reuters chronology:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formally asked Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas on Thursday to form a new unity government and urged him to respect peace accords signed with Israel.

On this point, we can at least ascertain that Reuters is regrettably mistaken. No Palestinian organization signed any peace accords with Israel. Perhaps Reuters is referring to the Egyptian or Jordanian peace treaties. Moreover, Abbas did not ask Hamas to respect any such accords. The letter charging Ismail Hanyiyeh with forming a new government states, in various translations:

From this premise, I call upon you to respect the resolutions of international legitimacy and the agreements signed by the PLO."

That is all it says, though some render "respect" as "honor" or "recognize." Israel is not mentioned. Peace is not mentioned.

Fatah member and ex-cabinet minister Sufian Abu Zeideh was quite frank in characterizing this agreement. He explained that everyone can interpret it as they wish. Consequently, it was not at all surprising that WAFA, the PLO News Agency could inform its readers:

"President Mahmoud Abbas said we have totally abided by the agreements signed by the PLO and we are committed to the international resolutions related to the Palestinian cause, we are also committed to the Road Map and the vision of President Bush of two states.

In an interview with Palestine TV the President affirmed: We are also committed to renouncing terrorism which late President Yasser Arafat announced in 1988. We are abided by all these issues as we are also
committed to the Arab peace initiative in 2002 which we honorably participated in its formulation."

And in the interview Abbas said:

"...I think that the letter of commissioning is enough for the upcoming government which is asked to abide by this letter....we are committed to all the Palestinian legitimacies, I mean the resolutions of the Palestinian National Council and the agreements signed by the PLO as well as the Arab and international legitimacies. Accordingly these issues are reflected in the Agreement...All these issues were undoubtedly mentioned in the letter of commissioning..."

But it appears that it is a matter of interpretation nonetheless. At the same time as Abbas was more or less proclaiming that the Mecca agreement commits the Palestinian government to peace, the Islamic Jihad group was also welcoming the unity agreement, declaring that the clause about respecting agreements was open to "interpretation." Their own prolitical program, however, is not open to interpretation, as noted in this Maannews article, which quotes Dr. Muhamad El Hindi, their leader as saying that that Islamic Jihad has:

"a clear political horizon, represented in the refusal to recognize Israel, and the Quartet, in addition to our dedication to resistance."

That being the case, what can we expect from the three way summit meeting to be held on Monday, between US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Israel PM Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas? In Haaretz, Aluf Benn wrote:

"...nothing will come of this summit. Not peace negotiations, not a diplomatic agreement, and if Condoleezza Rice does not bang on the table, no easing of restrictions for the Palestinians either."

It is not quite an accurate forecast. The results of the summit, like the results of the Palestinian unity deal, will be "open to interpretation." Benn says it will be a "hot air summit." As it must be based on the results of a hot air Palestinian government, that does not even exist yet, what else can be expected?

Ami Isseroff






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