The hints have been coming for two days. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is going to have an important meeting “outside the homeland” today, Sunday 3 January.
Nabil Abu Rudeina dropped hints (slighly misleading) on Thursday, Yasser Abed Rabbo said it on Saturday… Now, the hints are leading in the direction of an Abbas-Hamas direct meeting.
It would be the first in a very long time, the first since the June 2007 “coup” in which Hamas routed Fatah/Palestinian Security Forces in Gaza. Abu Mazen’s position has hardly changed: Hamas must return to the status quo ante — that is, the Palestinian Authority must be restored in Gaza.
Abu Mazen was absent from Fatah’s 45th-anniversary musical gala at Ramallah’s Cultural Palace on Saturday evening, because he was travelling.
Now, Reuters is reporting, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal (based in Damascus in recent years) is in Saudi Arabia for meetings in “in a possible bid to narrow the rift between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, an official source said … ‘He arrived today. The visit is aimed at helping Palestinian reconciliation’, a senior foreign ministry official said”.
Saudi Arabia negotiated the Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah that led to the short-lived National Unity Government in March 2007. This government was dismissed by Abu Mazen, in his own political “coup” after the June 2007 Hamas military “coup”, and replaced by an “Emergency Government” which has changed again twice more this past year alone.
Egypt — particularly because of its proximity to Gaza and the pressure it can exert by controlling the only non-Israeli entrance to the Gaza Strip via the divided city of Rafah (which continues to grow on both sides of the Gaza-Egypt border) –has been the public negotiator between Hamas and Fatah for more than a year.
Despite differences in their national positions, it is not impossible that Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been coordinating a Hamas-Fatah reconcilation,.
Are both sides finally ready? (This will enable Palestinian elections that Abu Mazen proclaimed for 24 January, then postponed at the convenient demand of what he stressed, in his speech Thursday evening marking Fatah’s 45th anniversary, was a decision of the Palestinian “Independent” Election Committee, who mentioned the situation in Gaza as one of the main impediments to “national” elections (but only in the West Bank – including East Jerusalem from the Palestinian position – and Gaza). The coming elections are to be simultaneously for a new President and Legislative Council.
Will the U.S. be on board? (Egyptian officials will be travelling to Washington on Monday… Both Palestinian TV on Saturday and the Jerusalem Post on Sunday reported that the new American Consul-General in Jerusalem (East and West) Danny Rubenstein — who speaks fine fusha Arabic — met with Abu Mazen before he travelled…)
What will Israel’s position be? Is it just coincidence that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman said on Israel radio today (according to AFP) that “Our Palestinian partner Abu Mazen is a problem. Does he represent all of the Palestinian people. It is clear that he does not represent Gaza and that his legitimacy in the West Bank is in doubt … To sign an accord with Abu Mazen would be to sign a deal with the leader of Fatah”. [Well… Abu Mazen is not only the leader of Fatah, elected by acclaim in the Fatah General Conference in Bethlehem last August, but also the uncontested head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)…and only Abu Mazen’s position as head of the Palestinian Authority is questioned, due to the legal controversy over whether or not his term in office legally ended in January 2009, or whether it definitely would end on 25 January this year or not …]
And, will we find out soon what Abu Mazen’s ideas are on the new supra-role he will play, with all the political power now concentrated in his hands alone? He first suggested these ideas when he announced that he will not be running again for PA president in the next elections (if and when they are ever held…) He has since referred to these ideas, in several interviews and speeches he has made following his announcement about not contesting the next presidential elections — but without giving any specifics. And, somehow, it seems that no journalist has yet asked him if he could explain more…