agreement, signed between rival Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah on February
8, under the auspices of the Saudi leadership, was welcomed by thousands of
cheering Palestinians throughout the Occupied Territories, and seen as the
closing of a chapter of a bloody and tumultuous period of their history.
although more subtly, there is an equal eagerness to bring a halt to an oppressive
command of economic and diplomatic sanctions that have rendered most
Palestinians unemployed and living well below the poverty line.
almost all Palestinians want to remember, if they must, the bloody clashes that
claimed the lives of over 90 people since December as a distant memory, a
bitter deviation from a norm of unity and national cohesion, according to which
they want their struggle to be remembered.
aides to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, and advisors
to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh are fanning out across the globe, each group
heading to its traditional political milieus: the former group to Western
Europe and the United States, and the latter to Middle Eastern and Islamic
countries. Both Fatah and Hamas are keen to demonstrate that by endorsing the
agreement, their fundamental position remains unchanged, an arduous task
official reactions to the agreement, emanating from the four corners of the
globe are hardly encouraging. The so-called Middle East Quartet � consisting of
the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia � although
they welcomed the agreement, hoping that it might produce the desired �calm,�
reiterated their conditions that must be unreservedly ratified by the
Palestinian government if the sanctions are to be lifted; these conditions are
the recognition of Israel, the renouncing of violence and the acceptance of
past agreements signed between both parties, namely the Oslo Accords.
Quartet is seen to have withheld its final judgment on whether the formulation
of the unity government constitutes an acceptance, either directly or by
implicationof its three conditions, Israel is embarking on its own
diplomatic campaign to heighten pressure.
Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, who was recently in Munich to attend a global
security conference, has reportedly met EU�s defence and security coordinator
Javier Solana, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and foreign ministers of
Austria, Sweden and other countries. She has also spoken to US Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice twice over the phone, as reported in the Israeli daily
Haaretz. Her phone diplomacy has also reached Germany, Britain and Norway.
Livni�s behavior is but a mere expression of the attitude that is currently
being developed in Israel; the international community must continue to
pressure Palestinians until the three conditions are satisfied in full from an
Israeli point of view.
predicament for the Israeli quest, however, is the same old dilemma:
Palestinians can never, under any circumstance and no matter how great
concessions are, meet Israeli expectations, for these expectations are crafted
in so clever a way that makes it practically impossible for any Palestinian leader
or government to comply.
late President Yasser Arafat, who wore an Israeli flag pin side by side with a
Palestinian one on his Khaki jacket, managed to live up to Israel�s seemingly �reasonable�
demands, nor did his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, who was ironically elevated in
his political relevance to become the darling of Israel and Washington when
Hamas swept the majority of the vote in the legislative elections of January
2006, which subsequently led to the devastating sanctions. The Israeli government
labelled Abbas �weak� and �indecisive.� He too, by the same standards, was not
able to meet Israel�s conditions, why should we expect Hamas or any other to do
practical Israeli position � as opposed to rhetorical - is rather clear and should
not involve any exaggerated analysis: let Palestinians continue to be
collectively punished, succumb to internal feuds and dwell in their limitless
misery to allow Israel the needed time to further consolidate its territorial
schemes in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem: locking up more Palestinian
communities in Bantustan-like localities, while Jewish settlements continue to
be conveniently linked up to so-called �Israel proper� using the pretext of
security and the mammoth and encroaching imprisonment wall as the means to such
agreement�s import stems from whether it will present Israel with the
opportunity to discredit Palestinians� intentions, thus prolong the
international sanctions and internal chaos. Interestingly, these two points are
also the core of the Palestinians efforts, who hope that the agreement, in
which Hamas commits to �abide� by past agreements signed by the PLO and Israel,
is sufficient to end the effective state of chaos in the Occupied Territories
and convince the international community that enough concessions have been made
and that time has arrived for the sanctions to be lifted.
likely to be the Israeli and Palestinian quest for the next few weeks,
especially as the final judgment on the Mecca agreement is likely to be
pronounced after two significant meetings: a tripartite summit that would bring
together Rice, Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday, February
19, and two days later, a crucial meeting in Berlin of the Quartet�s ministers.
the US final position is expected to be slightly amended, if not a carbon copy
of that of Israel; no surprises there since President Bush�s administration
foolishly amalgamated its Middle East policy with Israel�s self-serving
national and regional agenda. But one must not be too hasty as to make such a
determination without consulting the significance of the place in which the
agreement was signed: Saudi Arabia.
There is no
doubt that the Saudi position has finally revitalized the role of Arab states
in regional conflicts (the Mecca agreement was signed after incessant talks
between Fatah and Hamas in Egypt and Jordan).
Saudi analyst Mai Yamani suggests that the Mecca agreement is an attempt to
quell Iran�s growing influence in the region. �Iran has been financing Hamas,
while the Saudis in the last few months even refused to meet [Hamas Prime
Minister Ismail] Haniyeh. They realised that if there is more chaos in the
Palestinian territories, Iran will have more influence.�
assessment is accurate, partly or entirely, and considering the US� own
endeavours to undermine Iran�s strategic outreach in the region, it might
indeed be rational for the US to live with the Mecca agreement and deal with
the �moderate� elements within the Palestinian government, even if temporarily.
Yet again, the US hardly behaves in accordance with its own interests in the
Middle East if such attitudes run counter to Israel�s own regional designs.
The next a
few weeks will reveal the potency of the Mecca agreement, as opposing
interpretations of what it, in fact, means. How such meaning should be
implemented will determine the next step for all parties involved. Its failure,
however, which remains a dreadful possibility, shall have detrimental affects
on the Palestinian people, any prospect for their coveted future unity and will
further undermine their national agenda for years to come.Ramzy Baroud�s latest book, �The
Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People�s
Struggle� (PlutoPress, London) is now available in the US