Quick notes on Fateh-Hamas reconciliation of April 27

As I tweeted yesterday, the reconciliation announced in Cairo yesterday— which still needs a lot of fleshing out– is the second great result of the Egyptian people’s historic overthrow of the Mubarak-Suleiman regime. Until February 11, Omar Suleiman had been assiduous in (1) monopolizing the whole diplomatic space allotted to “seeking” this reconciliation, and (2) blocking its attainment.
In both these steps, we can note, he was mirroring the behavior his Washington friends have pursued more broadly toward the attainment of a final-status Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement: (1) monopolize, (2) block. You might argue– as I have, many times, at both these levels– that if you can’t sh*t you should get off the pot. But in both these cases, staying glued to the pot so no-one else gets a chance to do the job is just as important as the not-doing of the job.
But the heroic and disciplined Egyptian people knocked Sulaiman off his pot… and now, six weeks later, we have a first important step toward what could well be a Fateh-Hamas reconciliation that serves the interests of the long-battered Palestinian people a lot better than the extremely damaging U.S.- and Israeli-engineered division that has wracked the Palestinian movement since late January 2006.
See these great photos from an anti-Israeli popular demonstration in Cairo just yesterday. H/t Arabawy.
The rough score-sheet for the effects of the Arab uprisings up till now on the always-permeable internal politics of the forcibly dispersed Palestinian people is roughly as follows:

    1. Overthrow of the Mubarak-Suleiman regime: devastatingly bad for Fateh and very good for Hamas.
    2. Serious weakening of Bashar al-Asad regime in Syria: Fairly bad for Hamas in the short term, given the location of the movement’s pan-Palestinian headquarters there and its longterm alliance with the Asad regime. However, note the following: (a) the strongest opposition force in Syria, as in Mubarak-era Egypt, is the MB, which also has longstanding links with Hamas; (b) the Syrian public is strongly pro-Palestinian; (c) Hamas anyway has a widely networked and very resilient leadership and succession-planning structure, that it has developed over the course of many years. If they get knocked out of Damascus, they could go to, um, Cairo or El-Arish! (d) even if ‘a’ and ‘b’ were not true, if Hamas were to ‘lose’ Syria and ‘gain’ Egypt, it would still be a tremendous net plus for them;
    3. Chaotic and violent events in Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain: These have some effects on the Fateh-Hamas balance, but none that are as sizeable or immediate as the effects of developments in Egypt and Syria.

What is true, as a general rule in the region is that the kind of sordid backroom deals that regimes like Mubarak’s, that of successive Jordanian monarchs, or others have struck with Israel in the past– that is, arrangements to quash Palestinian movements that go far beyond the formal requirements of the peace treaties– have become considerably harder for these Arab parties to uphold, given the long overdue and very welcome emergence of strong movements calling for transparency and accountability from Arab governments.
Now, it is also true that amidst these regionwide developments there are some very disturbing currents, including (obviously) the rush toward western military action in Libya and the support that action has garnered from many Gulf Arab states; the emergence of a vicious new wave of anti-Shiite sectarianism– not only in Bahrain and Yemen, but broadly throughout the region, including (in its anti-Alawi guise), in Syria. This is an aspect of the emergence of a new kind of specifically “Sunni” power in the region that fills me with dread. Goodness, have we not seen quite enough of the terrible effects of Sunni-Shiite sectarian hatred in Iraq and Lebanon over recent years??
For their part, the leaders of Hamas (though not all of the rank-and-file members of the movement) are part of a determinedly tolerant current within the broader “Sunni Islamist” stream. Hamas leaders are eager to work with Christians inside and outside the Palestinian community; and they have a long history of working closely alongside Hizbullah (and the Iranian government), which must surely have affected the view they have of Muslims who are Shiites. Hamas people whom I’ve interviewed have always warned strongly against allowing any kind of paranoia about the machinations of an alleged “Shiite Crescent” to insert a fatal wedge into the Palestinian or broader Arab national movements. That kind of paranoia, I certainly have heard expressed and endorsed by high-ranking people in Fateh– as in Jordan, Mubarak’s Egypt, etc.
Anyway, the region is still in a high degree of dynamism. This will certainly have a big effect on the internal politics of Palestine.
Here in Washington, DC, I see various of the rabidly pro-Israel members of Congress have been screaming their hearts out about how any affiliation with Hamas would render the Fateh leaders completely ineligible for any further U.S. aid. Ha. good luck with that. If the U.S. Congress cuts off the “aid” (including $$ and political support) to the Ramallah-based P.A. completely, then the P.A. will almost immediately collapse– and so will the “Dayton Forces”, which have been policing the various little pieces of Ramallastan in the service of the Israelis for the past few years. What then for U.S. policy?
The White House, interestingly enough, seems to have a slightly more nuanced view. I haven’t had time to find the whole of the statement that NSC spokesperson Tommy Vietor made yesterday, about the reconciliation news from Cairo. (If any readers can contribute the original source of this document, please put it in the comments.) But what truly intrigued me was the headline the pro-Hamas PIC put on this report of Vietor’s statement: “US meets Palestinian unity deal with guarded optimism.”
What on earth– ?
The portions of Vietor’s words that PIC quoted were as follows:

    ”Hamas … is a terrorist organization which targets civilians,” said Veitore.
    “As we have said before, the United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace,” he said. ”To play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles and renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
    “We have seen the press reports and are seeking more information,” he added.

To me, this doesn’t warrant the headline the editors put onto their news report. On the other hand, Vietor’s words are light-years less hostile and hysterical than those of people like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen or Gary Ackerman.
The fact that the PIC has depicted them, in its headline, in this extremely rosy way– “guarded optimism”???– is what intrigues. Are the Hamas ideologues trying to prepare the way for a new overture to the Obama administration?

10 thoughts on “Quick notes on Fateh-Hamas reconciliation of April 27”

  1. What you quote from the Obama administration is the usual evil they always put out. They know very well that Hamas can’t “target” anyone. They barely have any weapons, and what weaponry they have is not precision weaponry. Remember, Obama KNOWS this. You need to stop giving him any credit for good intentions. He’s an evil liar.
    He goes on to add that any Palestinian government must acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Again, Obama KNOWS that that is a poison pill. What does it even mean to say that Israel has a right to exist? What if the Palestinians there grow in number and become the majority and want to be part of Palestine? How does anyone get to dictate to them that they cannot do this? And how can any Palestinian authority acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, when that means denying the stealing of land, which is PRECISELY one of the things being negotiated over? Again, Obama KNOWS that this is a self-contradictory demand.
    We need to stop being naively ‘hopeful’.

  2. Congratulations Helena!
    Washington is quickly losing relevance to the Israel/Palestine issue, so who cares what it says?
    In case you you haven’t seen this by MJ:
    The Institute for Middle East Understanding
    Washington fumbles Palestinian unity
    MJ Rosenberg, Al Jazeera, Apr 29, 2011
    After secret talks that gave way to a Fatah and Hamas reconciliation, American politicians are already threatening to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority – despite not even reading the terms of their agreement
    Any doubt about how the United States makes its policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be dispelled by the Obama administration’s near-instant reaction to the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation announcement: it is determined to be fully in sync with prime minister Netanyahu.
    Without even hearing the details of the agreement, the White House, as reported in the New York Times, “all but dismissed” it:
    The White House, which has been debating how best to revive peace talks ahead of an address to Congress next month by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, all but dismissed the proposed reconciliation by reiterating the longstanding American designation of Hamas as a terrorist organisation that has never expressed a willingness to recognise Israel, let alone negotiate with it.
    “As we have said before, the United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace,” Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said in the administration’s only public response. “Hamas, however, is a terrorist organisation which targets civilians.”
    He added that any Palestinian government had to accept certain principles announced by international negotiators known as the Quartet: the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia. They include renouncing violence, abiding by past agreements with the Israelis and recognising Israel’s right to exist. Hamas has never agreed to those conditions.
    Then Congress spoke. Gary Ackerman, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, and a pro-Netanyahu stalwart, weighed in on the agreement:
    “It calls into question everything we have done,” Representative Gary L. Ackerman, Democrat of New York, said in a telephone interview. He later issued a statement saying the United States would be compelled by “both law and decency” to cut off all aid.
    “I don’t think there is any will on the part of the administration or the Congress to provide funds to a government that is dominated by a dedicated terrorist organisation,” he said.
    On a roll, Ackerman then said that the deal “will be paid for with the lives of innocent Israelis”. Ackerman, like most of his colleagues, never seems to notice all the innocent Palestinians who die at Israeli hands (many, many more than the number of Israelis who are killed by Palestinians), as evidenced by his cheerleading for the Gaza war. Nor did he care that he did not know the terms of the Fatah/Hamas agreement.
    Of course, Ackerman’s statement is typical of the congressional response. In fact, one of the reasons that AIPAC cutouts like Ackerman are first to issue press releases on any matter related to Israel is to set the tone for their colleagues by indicating what the right (i.e., politically safe) position is. But the position itself is dead wrong. The right position would be to simply wait and see what the Hamas-Fatah agreement says. Already today, Haaretz is reporting that, under the terms of the agreement, president Mahmoud Abbas will be handling negotiations for any new unity government. (As usual, the Israeli view of events in its own region is not as stridently “pro-Israel” as in Washington.)
    Considering that even prime minister Netanyahu has repeatedly praised Abbas for his commitment to peace, it is just possible that Hamas will, following Abbas’s lead, change its position in coming days.
    Unfortunately, the US reaction to the Hamas-Fatah agreement makes any such change less likely.
    In fact, the administration’s demand that Hamas recognise Israel in advance of any negotiations with Israel could well ensure that there won’t be any. So could our demand that it accept all previous agreements negotiated by the Palestinian Authority.
    All of these issues would naturally be addressed in the context of negotiations. Demanding that Hamas accept them in advance – a position devised by the Israeli government and then pushed on the United States and the European Union – is an act of diplomatic sabotage.
    There is only one demand we should make of Hamas, that it cease all acts of violence. Hamas has, in fact, lived up to that commitment during various cease-fire periods with Israel. In partnership with Fatah, it would likely do so again.
    In any case, a mutual cease-fire is a reasonable demand, one that would facilitate negotiations. But the people issuing demands in Jerusalem and in Congress seem to have no interest in negotiating. Their goal is delivering for Israel which, of course, is a way of delivering for their campaigns.
    This is the third time in the last few months that the combination of Netanyahu and the lobby (including, of course, its congressional allies) have successfully pressured the administration to do its bidding.
    To continue reading this article, please visit Al Jazeera.
    This page was printed out from the website of the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) found at http://www.imeu.net. The IMEU provides journalists with quick access to information about Palestine and the Palestinians, as well as expert sources, both in the U.S. and the Middle East.

  3. Thanks Helena-you certainly flesh out the facts for us. A STOP NATO post today has a Russian journalist’s views from inside Syria which is enlightening too. Uri Avnery is already in Countercurrents with a positive attitude, but saying how happy Netanyahu is now that he has an offer for the USA Congress- peace is impossible since all Palestinians are now terrorists!
    The whole White House repeat of the “renounce violence”with your home-made rockets while the IDF uses the US-supplied WMD; “keep to agreements” while Israel keeps to none, is so ridiculous it seems as nonsensical as any country’s “right to exist”, especially without fixed borders.

  4. Ted Koppel
    “The Arab Spring and U.S. Policy: The View From Jerusalem
    Israeli officials want a public commitment from Washington to protect the Saudi regime should it come under threat.”
    There’s your morality, Frank.

  5. The Haaretz report of the comments by Hamas PM Haniyeh on the killing of Bin Laden, if accurate, will certainly do serious damage to Hamas’ credibility everywhere in the West and in all but the fringes of the Arab world. Even though , when parsed, the comments calling Osama Bin Laden a “holy warrior and martyr” and referring to the operation as a continuation of the American policy of “spilling Muslim blood” are not quite as bad as the headline suggests, the comments were stupid, harmful to the Palestinian cause and very ill-timed. Every American and almost all of the world, including the Muslim world are cheering the killing (which should have happened in 2002, or at least 2003, if Bush had not taken his eye off the ball because of his obsession with Iraq and Saddam Hussein). Haniyeh is either a real supporter of terrorism or incredibly stupid and inept. In either case, he should go for the good of all Palestinians.

  6. H. Cobban, 4/26/11:
    For their part, the leaders of Hamas (though not all of the rank-and-file members of the movement) are part of a determinedly tolerant current within the broader “Sunni Islamist” stream.
    GAZA — Hamas officials here condemned on Monday the American operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, with Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Hamas government, calling it a “continuation of the United States policy of destruction.”
    Ismail al-Ashqar, a Hamas lawmaker, described it as “state terrorism that America carries out against Muslims.”
    Nice timing there Helena. With Bin Laden gone, you are one of the few real friends Hamas has got left. Keep up the great work!

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