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After Mecca

28 Febuary 2007

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Last month Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniya met in Mecca at the behest of Saudi King Abdullah in an effort to establish a national unity government between Fatah and Hamas, thereby ending the civil conflict between the factions. Everyone knew there had to be a “successful” outcome with a signed agreement or the Gaza Strip could explode into a full blown civil war. Abdullah was not allowing anyone to leave his kingdom without a national unity arrangement. Hence the king squeezed a supposed compromise out of the conflicting sides but issues of principle concerning peace with Israel were bypassed. So far a Palestinian government has yet to be announced.

In an effort to lift the year old sanctions imposed on Haniya’s Hamas government, Abbas who doubles as Fatah chairman, has attempted to sell the agreement as a breakthrough on the peace front. Neither the US, the European Union nor even the Russians are buying his explanations. There are three fundamental conditions that any Palestinian partner must accept as a prerequisite for negotiating with Israel: Full recognition of the State of Israel and its right to exist; Recognition of all previous agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians (the Oslo Accords) and the commitment to halt all acts of terror and violence against Israel. None of the above are mentioned in the Mecca Agreement and the Hamas continues in its calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.

In meetings with US Sec. of State Rice and Israeli PM Olmert it has been made clear to Abbas that sanctions will not be lifted since in essence the PA government is following Hamas dictates by rejecting possibilities for a peaceful agreement with Israel. Abbas is viewed as weak and having failed in his mission.

But the question of his mission is fundamental to realizing the outcome. Abbas and Fatah wanted to avoid a civil war with the Hamas, a war they cannot win. The best they can manage is a national unity government along the lines dictated by the Islamist Hamas without public mention of adherence to the Hamas Covenant calling for Israel’s destruction. In return there is no Hamas commitment to recognize Israel or any accords signed as a result of the Oslo process. One might want to call it “sins of omission” by both sides in an effort to avoid continuing bloodshed. But according to the Palestinian Media Watch (Newsletter Bulletin Feb. 28, 2007) some 90% of Palestinian young people between the ages of 18 – 25 deny Israel’s right to exist. They certainly will interpret the Mecca document as reinforcing the Hamas demand for the destruction of the Jewish State.

It is the best Fatah and Abbas can do but it is certainly not even a start where peacemaking is concerned. No one is sure the Palestinian civil conflict is over, but should it be, then the Palestinians will certainly intensify their border war with Israel and Fatah will continue being swallowed up by the Hamas.

One more secular Arab nationalist leadership has succumbed to the Islamists and unfortunately this does not appear to be the last Moslem Brotherhood victory.