Mahmoud Abbas has given up making shalom with Israel for the foreseeable future
and is trying once again to make salaam with Hamas.
president and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, are scheduled to meet this week in
Cairo to try to revive the power-sharing agreement that was signed in May but
never implemented. They will also attempt to name a caretaker government to
prepare for elections in about six months.
Chances of success are only
slightly higher than they were six months ago, said Robert Danin, former head of
Tony Blair’s Jerusalem Quartet mission and a former senior State Department and
National Security Council Middle East specialist. The two parties are far apart
but there is strong popular support for unity, and the leaders fear being
“consumed” by the unrest sweeping the Arab world, he added.
cautioned against Washington and Jerusalem overreacting to talk of Palestinian
unity, even if the two Palestinian factions smile and embrace for the
“It’s one thing to reach an agreement and another to implement
it,” he said. “There are so many details that will be next to impossible to
One of Hamas’ core demands is replacing Prime Minister Salaam
Fayyad with a Gazan of its choosing.
It blames him for the tough
crackdown on its supporters on the West Bank by the new professional security
forces. Those police, trained under the USfinanced Dayton program, have won high
marks from their Israeli counterparts.
That’s not the only reason that
outside the West Bank Fayyad is the most highly respected figure in the
Palestinian Authority. He is also the driving force behind reforming the PA’s
economy, fighting corruption, implementing political reforms and developing the
institutions of statehood.
Fayyad has said he is willing to step down
rather than “be used as a pretext for continuing the split.”
could endanger support from the donor nations whose money keeps the PA
ABBAS, FOR his part, has said there’s no reason for Jerusalem
and Washington to be concerned because Hamas will not be part of the government.
He is being disingenuous when he says the reconciliation pact would create an
apolitical caretaker government of technocrats. Hamas and Fatah might not
formally hold ministries but they will select the ministers and wield
considerable influence, and that means they will effectively be running the
Abbas may say he’s anxious to meet with Mashaal, but he knows
the real threat to his and Fatah’s survival is Hamas, not Israel; he recognizes
the reality that the Israeli Army, as well as the PA security forces, is keeping
Hamas from taking over the West Bank.
Fatah’s declared goal is to
establish a secular national state living in peace with Israel, while Hamas
wants to destroy both Israel and Fatah, and to create an Islamic republic not
unlike that of its Iranian patrons.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II made a
surprise trip to Ramallah Monday to urge Abbas to resume talks with Israel as
proposed by the Quartet. Although he spoke publicly of Palestinian unity, it is
reported that he privately urged Abbas not to form a unity government with
Hamas. He is worried that a collapse of the Abbas government and a takeover by
Hamas in the West Bank would be a direct threat to Jordan, which has a
Palestinian majority and a large Muslim Brotherhood presence.
earlier Deputy Secretary of State William Burns went to Ramallah to tell Abbas
that the Obama administration opposes a unity government with Hamas and would
cut off funding unless the Islamic group, which the United States classifies a
terrorist organization, meets Quartet demands that it recognize Israel’s right
to exist, renounce violence and abide by all prior Israeli-Palestinian
A Hamas victory in the next election is not out of the
question, and that could lead to a break in relations with the United States and
Israel. If the PA is squeezed too hard, there is a danger the security forces,
which are considered critical to keeping order, could collapse or turn on
Israeli analyst Yossi Alpher, a coeditor of
Bitterlemons.org, said integrating Hamas into a Palestinian unity
government reflects a trend in the Arab world that has Arab Islamist movements
The Netanyahu administration’s approach toward the
Islamists may be changing.
“One of the elements pushing Abu Mazen [Abbas’
nom du guerre] is the perception that in the wake of the Schalit [prisoner swap]
deal the Israelis are interested in dealing with the Islamist parties,” Danin
Abbas sees Netanyahu as willing to deliver over 1,000 prisoners to
Hamas and none to Fatah, enhancing the Islamic group’s public stature at his
expense, while also withholding tax funds Israel collected for the PA despite
warnings from Israeli security officials not to undermine the Abbas
The army and intelligence establishment feel it is against
Israel’s interest to strangle the PA, but rightwing members of Netanyahu’s
coalition, led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, overruled the PM’s attempt
at Sunday’s cabinet meeting to release the funds.
reconciliation breaks down and with no new negotiations likely, Alpher said,
‘The only real question is whether, where and to what extent large-scale violence
The writer is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist
and consultant. He writes regularly for Anglo-Jewish newspapers and is the
former legislative director of AIPAC and Washington representative of the World