Analysis: Spurned Palestinians insist unity is positive

Many people wonder why Palestinians can't see the great advantages that lie within the Mecca agreements.

Abbas Mecca 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Abbas Mecca 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The three-way summit is seen as a failure on the Palestinian side, and the direct blame is being placed on Israel and the United States. Many people wonder why can't they see the great advantages that lie within the Mecca agreements. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum claims that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pushed Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to end all ties with Hamas - including within the confines of a unity government - and did not mention the Mecca agreement during the meeting. Mecca is the one thing quelling the internal violence right now, and all parties support this aspect of the accords. The Mecca agreements were preceded by internal Palestinian actions to bring about a cease-fire between Fatah and Hamas. Members of Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) were the main go-betweens. Starting in December, the three groups worked to pacify the situation. According to independent legislator Mustafa Barghouti, who made trips to Cairo and Damascus, trying to mediate between the two warring factions, "At times Fatah and Hamas boycotted each other. We explained to them that neither of them can run the show alone." Barghouti was the runner-up in the last Palestinian Authority election for chairman. His party does not have an armed wing and supports nonviolent resistance. Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council from the PFLP, said she supported the Mecca agreements because it serves to end the internal violence, something her organization was working for as a main mediator. "Did we really need all those people to die" in the internal violence "for us to reach this point?" she asked. The PFLP is in talks with PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh about joining a unity government, but Jarrar says they will demand certain points, including greater "gender equality, freedom of expression and democratic reforms." "If they want us to join, there will need to be real power sharing," she said. Jarrar said the real basis of political consensus was the Palestinian prisoners' agreement, which does not mention "respecting" previous agreements as Mecca does. For her, that agreement is also more important since it talks about internal reforms in the PA and PLO. Surprisingly, Islamic Jihad, like the PFLP, supports the basic ideas behind Mecca because it ends the fighting. Islamic Jihad would prefer that the two main factions turned their guns against Israel and not each other. But according to Islamic Jihad spokesman Khaled al-Batch, this did not mean they will join the new government. "The occupation is in our homes," he said. "Only after the occupation ends will we join a government." Islamic Jihad opposes the Oslo Accords. The armed wing of Islamic Jihad, al-Quds Brigades, may reach a cease-fire with Abbas that essentially might mean a cease-fire with Israel. Qais Abdel Karim, from the DFLP, said the hardest part of the mediating was getting the political heads to act. With the militias falling out of the orbit of their political parents, only the sternest pronouncements could have gotten them under control, which is what happened in Mecca. "Without a political solution, everything else was useful but fragile," Karim said. The DFLP is also in talks to join the new government, he said. This philosophy is not new to Karim; he's said the same thing about Israel. "The Israeli notions of a military solution are sterile and unviable," he said. "Attempts to crush the Palestinian resistance were futile. We have been pushing for two states based on 1967 borders" for many years. By accepting Mecca, "Hamas is practically accepting two states," Karim said. There is a Palestinian consensus that what was signed in Mecca cannot be touched, at least not by foreign intervention, or a Pandora's Box will be opened. Rice and the others must simply let the Palestinians put their houses in order and recognize that a new government is the key. Without that, who knows how long Mecca's glue might hold strong. If Mecca fails, people are worried about a rekindling of internal violence. Jarrar, Karim and Barghouti all speak about democratic reforms within the PA and the PLO, and changes to the security structures, most importantly a depoliticization of government and security forces. Ending corruption is a recurring theme. They hope a process is being started to reach these goals. Many Palestinians are convinced that Western and Israeli demands for changes to Mecca will only bring about more Palestinian bloodshed, and without internal Palestinian peace there can be no external peace deals. Why the Israelis and Americans not understand this is the question many seem to be asking.