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Dr Musa A Keilani: Reconciliation must for freedom movement
October 26, 2010
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Hamas leader in exile Khaled Meshaal has said that his group is willing to accept any peace agreement achieved between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) as long as it enjoys a Palestinian consensus.

Meshaal, in an interview with Newsweek magazine, observed that the establishment of a Palestinian state would not happen in the foreseeable future.

He called on the administration of US President Barack Obama to deal with Hamas “directly.”

He also affirmed that Washington was in contact with Hamas but through unofficial channels, including former president Jimmy Carter.

He declared, and rightly so, that there would never be real peace in Palestine if Hamas is kept out of the process. This position was backed by Carter.

“We believe that Hamas should be included in all the major efforts to peace ... It is part of the Palestinian people,” Carter said last week during a visit to Syria heading a delegation of The Elders Group seeking to promote peace in the Middle East.

For all technical purposes, Israel could continue to argue against any dealing with Hamas since the Palestinian group is refusing to recognise Israel’s right to exist, renounce armed resistance and agree to abide by past agreements signed by the Jewish state and the Palestine National Authority (PLO).

In reality, Hamas has adopted that position because that is the only way to keep pressure up on Israel and others, including the mainstream PLO leadership dominated by Fatah.

Hamas would not climb down from that position until it is satisfied that the Palestinians would get the best that they could secure in a peace accord with Israel.

According to Meshaal, “There is a position and programme that all Palestinians share. To accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the capital. With the right of return. And this state would have real sovereignty, on the land and on the borders. And with no settlements.”

That is the platform adopted by Fatah and other factions grouped under the PLO umbrella. However, it is indeed a climb down for Hamas, since such an agreement would fall short of the goals set out in the group’s founding charter.

But Meshaal said Hamas would accept such an agreement if a majority of Palestinians approved it: “When this programme is implemented… we would respect the will of the Palestinian people,” he told Newsweek.

None of the conditions laid out by Meshaal is acceptable to Israel and it is impossible that it would change its rejectionist approach even if Hamas were to recognise it, give up armed resistance and agree to respect past Israel-PLO agreements. (Never mind that these agreements have become obsolete as a result of Israel’s refusal to abide by them).

It is true that Israel and the PNA do not want to include Hamas as an active participant in peace negotiations; nor does Hamas want to become an active participant under the present givens.

But what has become clear from Meshaal’s Newsweek interview is that Hamas is softening its position. At the same time, Meshaal is also aware of the impossibility of the situation. And that is why he replied — when asked what role he would like to play in the future Palestinian state — that he was not sure whether such a state would be formed during his lifetime.

Meshaal has said on previous occasions that Israel fears the next generation of Palestinians.

“Family is the central structure of Palestinian society and the occupation fears the next generation,” he told a mass Hamas-sponsored wedding in which 700 couples were married in Damascus. “They fear our people in Gaza and the West Bank as well as those living in the territories conquered in 1948. They are preparing their schemes after failing to break them,” he said.

In the meantime, the Hamas leadership must indeed be aware that the suffering of the residents of the Gaza Strip under a tight Israeli blockade — and the imposition of strict restrictions imposed by the Hamas rulers of the territory — are taking its toll on political support for Hamas. It is difficult to quantify, but is clear that Hamas would not be able to come up with the 76 per cent of votes it secured in the last elections.

Now that Meshaal has declared his group’s willingness to accept an Israeli-Palestinian agreement supported by Palestinian consensus, the next logical step is to have Hamas and Fatah reconcile with each other and come up with a joint platform to represent the Palestinians.

The two groups revived the effort for reconciliation last month and it was expected that they would sign an Egyptian-mediated agreement in Damascus this month. However, the process hit a snag when Fatah insisted that the signing be moved out of Syria. The reason: Disputes between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad during the Afro-Arab Summit held in the Libyan city of Sirte in mid-October. It is very disappointing, to say the least.

At stake is the Palestinian struggle for freedom from occupation and independent statehood. The leaders of the Palestinian liberation movement, whether Islamist, nationalist or leftist, should not allow any political consideration to stand in the way of unity of their ranks to serve their common cause.

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