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Dr Musa A Keilani: An elusive goal
May 23, 2013
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has underlined one of the fundamental elements in the Middle East conflict by pointing out that there is no way forward in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations without including Hamas in the talks.

“The process of unity between Fatah and Hamas, this has to be achieved. If this reconciliation is not achieved, then I don’t believe that a solution or result will come out of the Israeli-Palestinian discussions,” Erdogan told a Washington think-tank during a visit to the United States.

Erdogan has also announced his intentions of visiting Gaza and the West Bank as soon as next month, in order to promote a Palestinian unity accord, and stressed that Turkey has much to offer to the burgeoning unity, going as far as saying that Turkey cares for the issue as if it was an inter-Turkish affair.

Erdogan also said that for peace to be reached, Israel must fall back to the 1967 line.

According to Erdogan, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and he were in agreement about this, though the present administration is of a different opinion.

“As long as Israel does not accept Palestine as a state, there is not much to talk about in terms of trying to achieve peace,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan’s comments follow an announcement by rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas that they have set a three-month timetable to form a unity government and hold elections.

The announcement came after a meeting at the Egyptian security services headquarters in Cairo between Azzam al Ahmed, the Fatah official in charge of reconciliation affairs, and Musa Abu Marzuq, his Hamas counterpart.

“We must take immediate steps to agree on the Palestinian National Council’s electoral law and set a date for elections. We have said these measures must be carried out within three months,” Ahmed said.

According to Sami Abu Zohri, a Hamas spokesman, both factions had decided to “finalise all reconciliation issues in three months, including that of the national unity government.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in April that he would renew consultations with the Hamas movement, after the resignation of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who had served since 2007.

The two movements signed a reconciliation deal in Cairo in 2011, which was meant to have paved the way for legislative and presidential elections within 12 months. But the agreement was never implemented because the two sides retained their differences.

A second agreement signed by Abbas and Khaled Masha’al, the political bureau chief of Hamas, in Qatar in February 2012, was opposed by Hamas members in Gaza.

The resignation of Fayyad in April opens up the possibility of a joint government; Hamas had never recognised his authority, instead pushing forward their own prime minister Ismail Haniyeh.

Reconciliation between Fatah, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, is seen by many as an important prerequisite for securing peace between Israel and Palestine, since a lack of a unified government prevented any meaningful dialogue between the parties.

However, there are considerable differences between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

Fatah, on the other hand, signed the Oslo peace accords with Israel in 1993, which accepted the right of Israel to exist.

Hamas’ terms of reconciliation with Fatah have been that the Palestinian National Authority cease security co-operation with Israel in the West Bank, and they also want control of key ministries currently dominated by Fatah. Hamas have also said that no change be made to their security services in Gaza.

Fatah leaders do not trust Hamas and say the group is not serious about achieving reconciliation with Fatah.

They also accuse the hardline organisation of cracking down on Fatah supporters in the Gaza Strip.

More than 30 Fatah activists have been summoned for interrogation by Hamas last week.

Hamas, which grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, combines Palestinian nationalism with Islamic fundamentalism: it regards the territory of present-day Israel – as well as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – as an inalienable Islamic waqf or religious bequest, which can never be surrendered to non-Muslims.

According to section 13 of the Hamas charter “Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement… There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavours.”

Section 15 states: “It is necessary to instil in the minds of the Muslim generations that the Palestinian problem is a religious problem, and should be dealt with on this basis.”

With such glaring differences in ideology and strategies, we should not be blamed for being sceptical over the possibility of Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. In Jordan, more than five attempts during the last ten years have been made without any success. So why try the impossible.

The author, a former Jordanian ambassador, is the
chief editor of  Al Urdun weekly in Amman

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