The Hamas-Fatah agreement reached at Mecca does not meet the requirements set out by the Quartet for any Palestinian government.
1. Recognition of Israel
The Quartet's requirements recognize that there can be no hope of a twostate solution, unless each recognizes the right of the other to a state. Recognition of the right of Israel to exist is an essential precondition for any Palestinian partner in peace.
The Hamas-Fatah letter of appointment contains no recognition of the State of Israel. In fact, the word "Israel" does not appear in the document. Even the PLO-Israel agreements are referred to merely as "agreements signed by the PLO."
The fact that Hamas has not changed its intransigent position on this issue in the slightest was emphasized by Ismail Haniyeh's adviser, Ahmed Youssef, just a few days after the conclusion of the agreement:
"The issue of recognition was not addressed at all in Mecca. In the platform of the new government there will be no sign of recognition (of Israel), regardless of the pressures the United States and the Quartet would exert." (Reuters, February 10) Similarly, Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan emphasized that the agreement marked no change in Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel:
"The agreement reached at Mecca does not mean recognition of the Israeli entity... The position of Hamas is firm and well known and it is one of nonrecognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity...."
(Interview to French News Agency, February 9)
2. Renunciation of terrorism and violence
"Two states living side by side in peace and security" can never arise if one side still advocates the use of terror. For this reason, the Quartet has repeatedly insisted that any Palestinian government renounce terrorism and violence.
The letter of appointment contains no undertaking to refrain from terrorism and violence. To the contrary, the letter calls on the new government to commit itself to the National Conciliation Document.
This document explicitly legitimizes the use of violence and terrorism, calling on the parties "to uphold resistanceâ€¦ in tandem with political action (Article 3)" and "to lead and engage in resistance against the occupation" (Article 10). Such calls are in direct contradiction to Palestinian obligations in previous agreements, including the road map, which call for an immediate end to "armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere."
HAMAS CONTINUES to hold Gilad Schalit hostage, to smuggle illegal weapons and explosives into the territories, and to glorify terrorism and violence.
In addition, it has taken no measures to implement Palestinian obligations to prevent acts of violence by other Palestinian groups, including the firing of Kassam missiles on Israeli towns and villages. To the contrary, Hamas government spokesmen have made clear that they support such attacks and have no intention whatsoever of preventing them.
3. Acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the road map
The Quartet has repeatedly insisted that any Palestinian government is required to accept previous Palestinian obligations and agreements, including the road map. These agreements reflect the result of painstaking negotiations and compromises by both sides. There can be no value in working to new agreements with a partner who reneges on previous ones.
The letter of appointment calls on the new government "to respect the agreements signed by the PLO," but this falls far short of the Quartet's requirement for several reasons:
The respect for the agreements is stated to be "on the basis" of the Palestinian higher national interests and other documents, including the National Conciliation Document which, as noted above, legitimizes and calls for acts of terror.
A provision which makes respect for the agreements subject to these other considerations amounts to little more than a willingness to selectively accept those parts of the agreements which do not contradict Hamas's long-standing extremist goals.
The fact that the so-called respect for agreements has no meaning in practice was explicitly noted by Khalil Abu Leila, of Hamas's political bureau.
When asked whether Hamas has committed itself to respecting the PLO agreements, he replied: "Only as concerns matters that do not contradict the higher interest of the Palestinian people. That is important. We as Palestinians can negotiate with the help of our Arab brethren and say: Where then is the higher Palestinian interest? If we can agree, we shall act according to that agreement. I say that the way of the previous government, based on Palestinian unity, was in the right direction, for the higher Palestinian interest. If we can find that interest in the agreements [signed by the PLO] we shall abide by them. But if the interest lies elsewhere we must get rid of them and return to jihad with the oppressive Zionist enemy."
(Interview to BBC Arabic Service, February 16)
While the word "respect" seems to indicate a commitment to the agreements, the insistence of the Hamas leadership on not using the words "accept" or "commit," as required by the Quartet, suggests that they intend to mean something far less binding.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas Political Bureau, emphasized the importance of this distinction in the days following the agreement: "There were detailed discussions on this issue, regarding the words "respect" and "commit" and it was clear to all that Hamas could not commit to something which is not included in the political positions it has presented on this issueâ€¦ The fact that Abu Mazen accepted the word "respect" in the letter of appointment made an important contribution to the breakthrough."
(Interview on Hamas Web site, February 17)
ADDITIONALLY, the Quartet called for respect not just for agreements, but also other obligations, "including the road map" since it is not a formally signed agreement between the parties. The omission of any reference to the road map raises troubling questions as regards the scope of the provision.
Statements by Hamas leaders make it clear that Hamas's fundamental opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian agreements remains unaltered. Usama Hamdan, Hamas's representative in Lebanon, restated its uncompromising position:
"All the agreements with the occupation were historic errors because they implied recognition of the legitimacy of occupation and opposition to further resistance."
(Interview on Al-Manar Radio station, February 14)
Hamas's actions similarly disprove any suggestion that it is prepared to comply with the provisions of the agreements reached between the PLO and Israel. These agreements set out obligations requiring the Palestinian side to take action against all expressions of violence and terrorism, to restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere, to confiscate all illegal weapons and ammunition, to respect internationally accepted norms and principles of human rights, to foster mutual understanding, abstain from incitement, and ensure that its education system contributes to peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
Any suggestion that Hamas respects these agreements contrasts starkly with its continued smuggling of illegal weapons, its glorification of violence and terror, its vicious incitement against Israel, and its persistent violation of the fundamental human rights of the Palestinians it claims to represent.
Burning Issues 26: Fading Quartet?
THE EVIDENCE indicates that Hamas has not changed, neither in principle nor in practice, in order to comply with the international community's requirements set out by the Quartet, or to acquiesce to the political platform of a Palestinian government which is committed to these principles.
To the contrary, Hamas's outright rejection of these requirements was stated clearly by Khalil Abu Leila, of Hamas's political bureau, just days after the agreement was reached: "I believe that Mecca was a success, because the aim was reached, but as far as the principles of Hamas are concerned, Hamas maintains its positions for the higher Palestinian interest. It continues not to agree to surrender and obey the conditions of the Quartet."
(Interview on BBC Arabic Service, February 16)
The conditions set out by the Quartet, which Hamas continues to reject, are not obstacles to peace, but rather the basic tests by which the international community can determine whether any Palestinian government is capable of being a partner in peace. As such, they are not subject to negotiation and cannot be satisfied by vague formulations or hopeful interpretations.
Excerpted from a posting on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site.