Walid Salem: The Situation and Ways Out

By Walid Salem

The Palestinian Arena: The National unity Government might not come!

Opposite to the optimism that was till the last week, the Palestinian Unity Government might not come to existence, five points about the Government are agreed upon between Hamas and Fatah, while the important other four points are still problematic.

Agreed upon Points:

1- The Prime Minister should be an Independent personality from Gaza that will also be nominated by Hamas (Note that: He should be a man and also from Gaza only). The deputy of the Prime Minister will be nominated in other hand by Fatah.

2- That half of the Ministers should be from Gaza and half from the West Bank (so far the percentage in the previous Government was like 1:1,4 between Gaza and the West Bank).

3- That each fraction will get seats in the new government according to the percentage of its representation in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Also representatives of the private sector and the independent personalities will be included in the government.

4- That the big Political Personalities will not be participating in the Unity Government.

5- That the Executive Security force organized by Hamas will be preserved as an independent force from all the other Security Forces.

Opposite to that agreement on procedural and organizational issues, the two sides still have them big political problems:

The First: The Unity Government will not be declared without an agreement with Israel for releasing Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons within an exchange agreement with the Israeli soldier Gila’ad Shalit.

The Second: That the establishment of the government will be also a subject of reaching a reciprocal Hudna with Israel.

The Third: The establishment of the government is also a subject to a prior international guarantees to lift the sanctions imposed on the Palestinians.

The Fourth: Although it is agreed upon in Hamas and Fatah dialogue that there will be no political program for the government, but it is also decided that the government will follow the guidelines of an Appointment Letter that will be prepared by Abu-Mazen upon an agreement between the two sides on its content.

So for no agreement was made with Israel on prisoners exchange deal, no agreement with Israel on reciprocal Hudna, no international prior guarantees in regard to the sanctions, no agreed upon appointment letter was prepared. Therefore it seems that Dr. Muhammad Shbeer the nominated person by Hamas to the  Unity Government Prime Minister will wait for a long time till he will receive the appointment letter from the President Abu-Mazen.

With that background the Hamas resumption of its participation in the last week in launching rockets to the Israeli town of Sderot leading to a killing of an Israeli woman, and injuries of few others, is not only a reaction to Beit Hanon Israeli jets crime against Palestinian Civilians, but it is also a massage in two directions: One toward Abu-Mazen telling him: We will not allow you to make concessions free of charge to Israel via resuming the Israeli negotiations with you, while Olmert is not ready to make any move forward. And the second one is a massage to Israel telling it that nothing will work without an agreed upon Hudna with Hamas (reciprocal Hudna). Also Hamas telling Israel: You can attack by air and by tanks, you can kill as many as you want, invade whenever you like, but you cannot break our readiness to resist and our ability to make 1000 Israeli leave Sderot to other safe places in Israel as happened in the last week when this 1000 moved to Eilat. You can as Israel make big harm to us, but we can annoy you, and we will keep doing that till you get to agree on reciprocal Hudna. Hamas response to a Peace Activist in Ramallah last week was also self explanatory: “What you did whom you call yourself a peace activist? Israel is not moving and not giving you anything while with primitive rockets we were able to oblige 1000 of Sderot Israelis to leave, and therefore we will continue this fruitful pressure on Israel no matter suffering we will have till we bring Israel to accept reciprocity and not to continue acting arrogantly and one-sided with us”.

Moreover it can be said that Hamas is also exploiting the Abu-Mazen inability to respond positively to Olmert letter for a joint meeting because Olmert is still not giving any thing to Abu-Mazen in order to bring to his people as an achievement! Also Hamas thinks that the UN General Assembly condemnation to the Israeli acts in Beit Hanoun present a good time for them to act in order to pressure Israel to give something to the Palestinians, also Hamas is encouraged in this direction by the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic States (OIS) decision to break the sanctions imposed on the Palestinians.

Finally in his side Abu-Mazen and Fatah are in impasse with the rise of Hamas power and tactics, in one hand Hamas is not allowing him to negotiate, and in other hand Olmert is giving nothing to him. This leads to the Israeli arena.

The Situation in the Israeli Arena:

After his failure to stop the rockets from Gaza, the Israeli Minister of Defence Amir Peretz called Abu-Mazen yesterday in order to ask his help for stopping the rockets. Peretz concluded the lesson: It will not work with the Palestinians by military means, therefore political means are needed. Tzipi Livni the Minister of Foreign Affairs got also to the same conclusion, she said last week that there is an urgent need for a political move! She also met with Shimon Peres in order to discuss with him the types of political moves to be taken, moreover, the government member Meir Shatrit called for negotiations with Syria.

Opposite to Peretz-Livini-Shatrit moves, the new Minister Leiberman moved calling Israel to declare Abu-Mazen irrelevant, and to begin war against Hamas leaders. In the Middle is Olmert, who is stuck by the failures in Lebanon and Gaza, the Failure of the re-alignment plan is West Bank. He criticized an Israel billionaire initiation to transfer Sderot inhabitants to Eilat. Till ten days ago he was in a crisis looking for a new political banner that will fill the vacuum created after the freezing of re-alignment plan. He might find that by escaping ahead and attacking Iran’s nuclear installations, but also by bringing the re-alignment plan for negotiations with Abu-Mazen, which is obvious that will not present a point of departure, from Palestinian point of view,

Conclusion:

The people with good intentions, who think that the Palestinians should deliver first in order to encourage Israel moving, should give up with these ideas. Hamas will not accept these ideas in one hand, but more importantly the Palestinian people will not accept these ideas asking in the same time the legitimate question: Why we should make a move while we are seeing the Israelis are not presenting anything meaningful. We should first be given guarantees that we will get something if we moved, otherwise it will catastrophic as happened with all the lessons of free of charge concessions that we made as Palestinians through the Oslo process. They will add: “Now we learned a lesson, and we will not repeat the mistakes of the past, and nothing now on will be given free of charge!”

Also the conclusion that “Sanctions worked with Hamas”, should be re-evaluated. Hamas is not moving under the pressure of Sanctions, they are making political maneuvers in order to sustain their political program as it shown earlier, one can continue convincing him/herself about the contradictions between Haniyyah as a moderate and Mashal/Zahhar as extremists in Hamas, but the bad news for such direction of thinking is: In the last week Hamas became united when it comes to their conditions to join the Unity Government mentioned earlier.

In this situation the relevant strategy will be to stop asking the Palestinians to deliver first, but go back to the first simple fact; that is that the evil began with occupation. Therefore here we should begin: In this direction the strategy of the Israeli peace movements should stop to continue to be a pressure on the Palestinians, but it should move to become organizing actions inside Israel in order to pressure the Israeli government to move politically towards if not a comprehensive Middle Eastern Solution, to at least a solution in Israel Palestine.

The international Civil Society should also move towards pressuring their politicians, Tony Blair attempt and also the Spanish-French initiative are encouraging signals that one can build on in the coming near future. Even the Olmert office distributed news today that something might come out soon with the Palestinians. These processes need to be persistently followed. The Israel Peace activists meetings with Olmert this coming week and the coming ones are an encouraging sign, but they should tell him to forget with the re-alignment plan and to make different two moves: One to give an approval to some Kadima people to meet with Hamas people in order to get to a Hudna reciprocal agreement, and if that is not possible to get to an agreement for a reciprocal ceasefire, and the second to begin indoor talks with Abu-Mazen people in order to put the details of a permanent solution that will be implemented in a short time that will not exceed more than three years. This is the way opposite to the stalemate, and also opposite to conflict management steps that proved to be not useful and that they will lead only to one direction: A Big Regional War!

-Walid Salem is the director of the Jerusalem office of  Panorama – the Palestinian Center for the Dissemination of Democracy & Community Development.

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