Monday, March 27, 2006

A wide-ranging personal view from Al-Hayat, with Jihad el Khazen taking in Hamas, Iraq and Syria

Ayoon Wa Azan (The Palestinian Situation: From Difficult to Impossible)

Jihad el Khazen Al-Hayat - 27/03/06//

The Palestinian situation has gone from difficult to impossible, and Hamas' election victory has made it more complex.

Hamas didn't expect to win with a big majority; Fatah didn't expect to be defeated by this same margin. It resulted in seeing Hamas discover that it wasn't prepared to win and rule, while Fatah wasn't prepared to lose and become the opposition.Hamas sough to form a government made up of its leaders, and independents close to the Islamist movement, instead of expanding participation in government to avoid failure or reduce the possibility of failure after Fatah refused to participate in the new Cabinet, to avoid failure, hoping that Hamas would fail and lose support among voters.

The problem is that failure will involve the Palestinians in general, i.e. Hamas, Fatah and all of the other Palestinian factions. On the other side, the acting Israeli prime minister seems, based on Israeli opinion polls, will become a full prime minister next week. The policy of Ehud Olmert, the godfather of the Israeli pullout from Gaza behind Ariel Sharon, is another unilateral withdrawal from part of the West Bank, without negotiations in the absence of a Palestinian partner. Then the Israelis will impose this situation on the Palestinians, the Arabs and Muslims, with US connivance.I reviewed a number ideas with Abdul-Ilah Khatib, Jordan's Foreign minister, and asked his opinion. He said that what the Palestinian people wants from Hamas, Fatah, or any group in power, is an end to the occupation, and before this an improvement in people's daily conditions under the occupation, which have reached a tragic point. The minister said that the two processes are linked and bridges with the international community must be kept intact, since it has a principal role, via negotiations, so that a unilateral situation isn't imposed.

The international community's has a key role to play in helping improve the conditions of Palestinians under occupation. Khatib asked whether it was correct to say, as a Hamas leader did, that the Palestinians can live without international assistance. Khatib also wondered whether this was a useful stance.I asked Khatib about the debate over the Palestine Liberation Organization and its role under a Hamas government. Khatib opted to not discuss internal details that only concern Palestinian officials. However, he did say that all of the Palestinians' agreements with Israel have been with the PLO, including the formation of the Palestinian National Authority, while Hamas' coming to power took place via these agreements.

Personally, I believe that the PLO has become a type of Palestinian folklore, or a kind of heritage. I know that many of the PLO's leaders have passed away and that they were all not-elected. However, the PLO remains, in the eyes of Arab states and the world, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians - this has been the case ever since the Rabat Summit of 1974, and Minister Khatib advises not forgetting what the Palestinians have built over the last 40 years.The PLO was established in 1964 and Fatah has controlled the organization since the June 1967 War. Despite all of the mistakes and sins, I believe that Hamas, more than Fatah, needs the PLO's presence today. My personal and long-standing acquaintance with the Hamas leadership leads me to affirm that it will not recognize Israel. I'm not asking it to. Hamas won in the elections based on a well-known program and if it abandons this program it will have deceived voters. There is also pressure coming from the US, which called on Hamas to recognize Israel as a condition for negotiating with the victorious party.

I hope that you never negotiate, God willing. I understand that the US is tempting Hamas with a solution for the Palestinians, and asking it to pay a price in return: recognizing Israel's right to exist. But as for demanding that Hamas recognize Israel just so that Hamas can negotiate with Israel, I say again, I hope that you never negotiate. I'll add the following: the PLO is a way out for Hamas, since it can recognize and commit to what the PLO has committed itself to, including the recognition of Israel.

The Jordanian Foreign minister is constrained by diplomacy and the responsibility that comes with his post. He doesn't talk like I do and he believes that the basic thing involves protecting Palestinian national unity, which is the responsibility of all. Working to reduce the suffering of the Palestinian people and strive for a solution via negotiation, with the cooperation of the international community, and not by challenging it. Khatib says that the Palestinian situation cannot be allowed to become worse.

I say to Hamas that it won by the same margin as Mahmoud Abbas did in becoming the President of the PNA. The President, according to his constitutional prerogatives, can dismiss the government. To Fatah, I say that Palestinian voters didn't vote for Hamas as much as they voted against Fatah, and against corruption, lack of security, and all other failures and shortcomings.

I telephoned the minister to ask him about the Palestinian situation, but I went on to discuss Iraq; Khatib expressed his hope that the Iraqis succeed in forming a government of national unity, with real authority, because every day is more difficult than the one before. Any delay will further complicate the situation.

The minister warned of the dangers of sectarianism for Iraq and the entire region. He said that no party has an interest in seeing Iraq move toward a sectarian confrontation. Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states all want to help Iraq exit its current crisis.Minister Khatib told me that closing the borders with Iraq was only temporary, and for organizational reasons. However, Jordan will remain the gateway for Iraqis to the outside world. There are almost daily Jordanian flights to Baghdad and Irbil; contacts with the leading figures in the Iraqi government are ongoing, and there are official visits taking place.

I told Minister Khatib that from the summer of 2004 to the end of the year I followed the efforts between the Foreign ministers of Jordan and Syria (at the time) after the crisis in these countries' bilateral relations due to the border issue and security violations. The minister declined to go into detail, but I telephoned other officials in Amman who said that the situation was now much worse than before. A former minister told me, "The situation is strange. There is a crisis and Syria is being targeted. However, instead of searching for friends, they are losing people." I'll wait until I visit Damascus, soon, to hear the Syrian point of view on recent events.

1 comment:

William said...

The big problem, the biggest drawback for the Middle East Peace Process and other measures for rapprochement in the Mid East - is the West choosing not to talk to certain parties. The West won't talk to Iran - or Hamas - or Syria - or Hizbollah - or whatever is today's pariah. This infantile behaviour results in a hardening of attitudes and allows terrorism and the sponsoring of terrorism to go unchallenged.