Thursday, February 15, 2007

Forward Progress, or Retreating Into the Future?

Last week's Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah does not bode well for Israel, the international community, or for that matter, the Palestinian people. In order to stop the bloodletting in Gaza and the West Bank, both sides agreed to the beginnings of a unity government. Abbas, weakened to the point of no return, is desperate to hold on to some semblance of influence. But in order to flesh out an agreement, he had to sell his soul, along with the body of the Palestinian people. Hamas, on the other hand, loses little and potentially gains greater international legitimacy, while accomplishing its goal of removing the economically suffocating international boycott on the Palestinian Authority. Past history shows that such bargains with the devil can not yield productive results. Conditional to Hamas signing is the implementation of structural & ideological reforms in the PLO, making it possible for the absorption of both Hamas & Islamic Jihad into the organization. Both groups are the antithesis of a national movement to free the Palestinian people and create an independent, secular, democratic Palestinian state. In fact, if they have their way, Palestine will be but a beachhead for fomenting Islamic revolution throughout the Middle East, and Abbas and Fatah will be powerless to stop them. What's amazing, is that Hamas, as part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, does not even conceal these goals, yet many in the international are quick to hail the Mecca Summit as a major breakthrough towards peace.

See more detailed takes below on the situation.

The International Implications of the Hamas-Fatah Mecca Agreement
- Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi(Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

The Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah does not presage a favorable diplomatic turn. It is merely a tactical political measure calculated to create a false impression regarding Hamas' political flexibility in order to whitewash the organization into being accepted as a legitimate player in the international arena without it having to meet the three preconditions of the Quartet. In practice, Gaza under Hamas rule continues to be a hotbed of terror organizations, including those with ties to al-Qaeda.

The political flexibility of Hamas, as expressed in the Mecca agreement, derives first and foremost from Hamas' inability to score a decisive triumph, as well as from the international political and economic pressure which eroded public support for the Hamas government and the carrot and stick policy of Saudi Arabia (Hamas' financial patron). Hamas' main objective is the removal of the international boycott on the Palestinian Authority.

Despite the desire of the EU countries to see a stable and democratic Palestinian government, past experience demonstrates that the billions of dollars poured into the Palestinian Authority since the Oslo process commenced have only served to strengthen the radical forces. If assistance is now extended to a Palestinian government where Hamas predominates, the West would be sawing off the limb of the tree which constitutes its Middle Eastern perch.
Hamas, as part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, does not conceal its aspirations to foment Islamic revolution throughout the Middle East, which would topple the moderate regimes allied with the West and establish an Islamic caliphate which will threaten Europe.

One of Hamas' fundamental conditions for agreeing to joint political action with Fatah was the institution of a comprehensive organizational and ideological reform in the PLO which would pave the way for the absorption of Hamas and Islamic Jihad into the organization. Hamas is attempting to revive PLO activity by conducting new elections in the Palestinian Authority and in the diaspora for the PLO institutions. Hamas expects that in such elections the movement will secure a respectable representation and perhaps even a majority. In other words, Hamas' objective upon its entry into the PLO is to take control of the Palestinian national movement, which brings with it exclusive representation of the Palestinian people together with control of the PLO's financial institutions and its international status. Afterwards, it is but a short distance (and Hamas leaders declare this openly) to an ideological reform which will expunge any sign of recognizing Israel.

Furthermore, Hamas has an interest in exploiting the consolidation of its governmental power with the use of Western assistance in order to foment Islamic revolutions in moderate Arab states that are the West's allies in the Middle East, and to establish an Islamic caliphate in the entire region, which will unite all Arab states. In other words, as part of the strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, Hamas aspires via Western assistance to create a new reality in the Middle East that will remove Western influence and foster conditions that will menace Europe.

The Mecca Accord (Part I): The Victory of Unity over Progress
Robert Satloff
With Mahmoud Abbas compromising on almost every critical issue to reach accord with the leadership of Hamas, the Mecca agreement blurs the distinction between moderate and extremist in the Palestinian camp. Abbas' decision to reach an accord with Hamas rather than face Hamas in an electoral showdown comes at a moment when both the U.S. and Israel are pursuing risky political moves to revive the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process and strengthen Abbas' position vis-a-vis Hamas. Defining a "political horizon" for Palestinians could only be made possible by a generous Israeli interpretation of the terms of the Roadmap to allow for negotiations over the shape of a permanent status agreement (the third phase of the Roadmap) before an effort had even been made to dismantle terrorist infrastructure (the first phase of the Roadmap). The writer is executive director of the Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
The Mecca Accord (Part II): Implications for Arabs, Israel, and U.S. Policy Robert Satloff
Hamas received a huge political boost in the form of an embrace by both Abbas and the Saudi leadership. The strengthening of Hamas can only embolden Jordan's own "Hamas-wing" of the Islamic Action Front inside the Hashemite kingdom. While the U.S. welcomes Sunni Arab cooperation to counter rising Iranian influence, it cannot countenance the legitimization of an unreformed extremist organization like Hamas.

Condi's Summit Won't Bridge Palestinian Gaps
Zev Chafets

The Mecca deal did nothing to change Hamas' cardinal principles: Israel has no right to exist, and it is a sacred duty to wage war against the Jews. Abbas, by bringing the Fatah faction into a Hamas-led government, won't be free to go beyond these baseline positions. If he does, the "unity" government will be over, and his life will be in danger.

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