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Monday, September 11, 2006

Hamas and Fatah say they are forming 'unity government'

The way I have headlined this blog post is not the way you will see it headlined in the mainstream media, but I have chosen the words carefully for reasons you will soon understand.

'Moderate Palestinian President' Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen announced today that he will dissolve the current Hamas-led government within forty eight hours, and that he and 'Palestinian Prime Minister' Ismail Haniyeh will form a 'unity government.' This is being done in the hope that it will induce the West to drop its boycott of Hamas, which refuses to accept the existence of a Jewish state on any part of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Haaretz's story about this screams, "Haniyeh agrees to indirect recognition of Israel." Haaretz supposedly bases its report on an interview of the head of the Hamas parliamentary faction, Salah El-Bardaweil, with the Ma'an 'Palestinian' news agency, in which El-Bardaweil said that the group's political stance is based on the "prisoners document," as well as the 2002 Arab League peace initiative. For those of you who have forgotten what the 'prisoners' document' is, you should go here to be reminded. But Haaretz practically gushes with enthusiasm about this development. In a story by the normally level-headed Avi Issacharoff, formerly Israel Radio's correspondent for the administered territories, Haaretz notes:
Haniyeh's acceptance of the Arab initiative as is would be a dramatic turning point and would signal the legitimization of negotiations with Israel and recognition of its existence within the 1967 borders.
Slightly less optimistically, the Jerusalem Post notes:
There were no immediate details on the provisions of the coalition agreement, but said it was based on a proposal that implies indirect recognition of Israel. The Arab peace initiative would be adopted as the basis for forming a Fatah-Hamas coalition.

Hamas officials said the agreement did not amount to direct recognition of Israel. But elements of the platform - including acceptance of an Arab plan for a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement - suggests recognition of the Jewish state.
Don't put your wolves and sheep together just yet. Even Haaretz and the Post both note that there is another view in Hamas. Haaretz buries this sentence in the middle of its story:
"Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Monday that, "Hamas will continue to have its political agenda ... we will never recognize the legitimacy of the occupation."
And the Jerusalem Post comments on its 'suggestion' of 'recognition' that
This contradicted earlier reports that Hamas would continue to deny Israel's existence.

"The Quartet wants us to recognize Israel's right to exist and to abandon the armed struggle, and this won't happen," Haniyeh said shortly before Abbas's arrival in Gaza City.

Hamas had yet to acknowledge the remaining conditions posed by Israel and the international community: halting terrorist activity and accepting past Israeli-Palestinian peace deals.
But it's actually worse than that. YNet and Arutz Sheva expose the whole thing as a fake, designed to give the West a figleaf for lifting its boycott of the Hamas-led 'government.' Here's YNet:
Shortly after the announcement the Hamas government issued a statement saying it would never recognize Israel.

"Hamas will continue to have its political agenda ... We will never recognize the legitimacy of the occupation," said top official Sami Abu Zuhri.


The apparent direction is adopting the Arab Peace Initiative (the Saudi plan adopted at the Beirut Summit) or any other initiative that hints at indirect recognition of Israel, even without officially announcing that Hamas recognizes Israel and honors prior agreements.

Al-Masri clarified that it isn't accurate to say that Hamas recognizes Israel. Another senior official in the movement clarified that Hamas' position on the historical right of the Palestinian people to all of Palestine hasn't changed.


As of now, with signs of the establishment of the government – based on relatively pragmatic fundamentals – both sides hope that it will be possible for Abbas to approach the international community with a request to lift the political and economic blockade while preparing for a possible meeting between PA and Israeli leaders.
Arutz Sheva takes it even further, reminding us of what's in the 'prisoners' document' and why the 'Palestinians' are trying to use it:
The original goal of the document was to restore coordination between the PLO (Fatah) and Hamas, without granting recognition to Israel. The document calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, without withdrawing claims to the area known as pre-1967 Israel, within the Green Line.

The so-called "right of return" for millions of Arabs to Israel is emphasized five times in the paper, and the PLO's stage-by-stage policy is also reaffirmed.

Significantly, the Prisoners' Document encourages further terrorism - in violation of the Road Map plan's fundamental demands - by calling for the "widening the circles of resistance" and for the "release of all [terrorist] prisoners" held by Israel "by all means." Support of "those who bore the burden of resistance, in particular the martyrs' families" - i.e., suicide bombers and their relatives - is encouraged.


Even in the new government, Hamas will not recognize Israel outright; it rather hopes that its acceptance of vague Arab peace initiatives, such as the Saudi plan of 2002, will enable other countries to remove their diplomatic boycotts from the PA.
Where's the beef? Sounds like more of the same to me.

Will this 'unity government' happen? Maybe. Will it be enough of a substantive change to satisfy the Europeans who are looking for an excuse to open relations with Hamas? Maybe. Does it represent a real change in the 'Palestinian' position? No. Will it lead to 'peace' or even to 'peace talks'? Unlikely.

Update 10:12 PM

The Washington Post is reporting that - apparently - neither Israel nor the US is fooled by the 'unity government.'
Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said that "things are still fluid" concerning the terms of the political program. But he said, "It's clear that if the incoming government, assuming there is one, accepts the three benchmarks . . . as well as the release of Gilad Shalit, it could give new momentum to the peace process and put the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue back on track."

"Anything short of those benchmarks would be a recipe for stagnation," Regev said.

Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm, spokeswoman for the U.S. consulate here that manages the Palestinian portfolio, said the political developments would be reviewed before any decision on aid is reached. But, she added, "If it's still falling short of the Quartet's principles, then it's still falling short."
You can't fool all of the people all of the time.


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