Von Hanna Siniora
The Jerusalem Times
The feverish local, regional, and international deliberations in preparation to the International meeting in November in Washington might be the last chance to prevent the demise of the two-state solution. Yet, the conditions under which the meeting is taking place, is fraught with pitfalls that the moderate present Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, should take into consideration for survival.
The Fateh-Hamas rift is widening, a media campaign is being waged against President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad by Hamas statements led by former Hamas PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahhar, and by Dr. Ahmad Yousef, the political advisor of former PM Ismaeil Haniyeh, and Hamas leaders and spokespersons. In return, Ahmad Abdul Rahman and other leaders in Fateh are quite outspoken in their criticism of Hamas. The deepening of the rift, doesn`t serve the best interest of the Palestinian people and their quest for independence. Without any doubts the present acrimonious accusations by both movements, jeopardizes the national aspiration of the people, and dooms progress to end the occupation.
Attempts must continue by all quarters, especially by Palestinian political forces as well as civil society, to end first the media campaign, and if possible the rift, before the November Summit meeting in Washington. At least, if such attempts fail, to call for a six-months moratorium on public bilateral media attacks, to allow those who are working toward internal reconciliation to succeed.
Regionally, beside Arab League participation, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Yemen and Turkey have indicated that reconciliation between Fateh and Hamas, is at the top of their agenda, in order to proceed in a united Palestinian front, toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in reaching an understanding dealing with final status issues like the right of return, the future of Jerusalem, of Israeli settlements, natural resources and borders. Distancing and radicalizing Hamas will prevent the implementation of future agreements, and will prevent the emergence of an independent Palestinian State.
Internationally, very important respectable European political leaders like Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi has called for intensifying the efforts to engage Hamas in dialogue on two levels, internally between Fateh and Hamas, and regionally and internationally to help develop Hamas politically as was done previously with the PLO.
The Foreign Relations committee in the British parliament has called on the newly appointed Quartet envoy Tony Blair to open a dialogue with moderate elements in Hamas, to help create better conditions, for mediation efforts to succeed.
Russian President Putin, during his recent meeting with President Abbas in Moscow has put on the table Russian suggestions for reconciliation between Hamas and Fateh. A Hamas delegation that traveled to Moscow has been given the same suggestions.
All these efforts are urgent, in order to prevent the hard-line wing in Hamas to grow at the expense of the moderate wing. International, regional, Arab and Palestinian interests touch and coincide in the attempt to moderate Hamas as one of the two leading movements in Palestine. Not even Israel would be interested in having a radical movement in Gaza and the West Bank, modeled on Iran and Taliban.
Syria and Hamas should be prodded with incentives to move closer to the position of the international community and international legitimacy in order to prevent further radicalization that eventually will lead to new wars in the region and the demise of the two-state solution.
The Role of Israel
The internal rivalry between the two Ehuds in the present coalition in Israel might also torpedo progress toward a successful outcome of the intended international summit in Washington. It is apparent that the only lifeline to save his political future for PM Ehud Olmert is to promote equally on both the Palestinian and Syrian fronts steps toward permanent peace. This will converge with US intentions to isolate radicals in the region, distance Hamas and Syria from Iran, and create a bloc of moderate Arab nations.
The quest for a new term as Prime Minster by the leader of the Labor Party Ehud Barak might undermine the holding of a successful summit in November. Barak knows very well, that his partner in the present coalition headed by Kadima is vulnerable. Olmert faces not only the repercussions of the final Winograd Commission report, but also the many criminal investigations of corruption that are ripe for decision. Barak, in the polls for early elections for a new Knesset, is a leading candidate to succeed Olmert in the job.
Barak recent statements that Israeli security comes at the top of his agenda, and that he doubts the ability to arrive to a settlement with a divided Palestinian leadership, alarmed US Secretary Condi Rice, to the extent, to call Barak for clarification.
Advice to the Palestinian Moderate Leadership
No guarantees at present exist for a real breakthrough at the forthcoming Summit. Success will shore up the credibility of moderates in Palestine, Israel and the region. Failure will undermine the political future of Abbas, Fayyad and the Palestinian moderates. Every step of the way, from now up to November, the moderate Palestinian leadership must walk through minefields, that is why, while boldly moving toward a new framework that must define the elements of a viable two-state solution, this leadership should on a parallel course, to save it from being crushed by failure, should cultivate efforts to deal with the internal rift, in order to continue its role as the national moderate leadership Palestine needs. Reconciliation with Hamas based on previous agreements, and the return of the legitimate PA to Gaza, should be as important as reconciliation with Israel.
Mr. Hanna Siniora is the Palestinian Co-CEO of IPCRI – the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information