The reconciliation “summit” between PLO Chairman + Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas [on the right in the photo below] and Hamas Politibureau chief Khaled Meshaal [on the left, beaming, beside Abbas] went ahead in Cairo on Thursday 24 November.
In an almost-surreal — though all too real — backdrop to this meeting, the widely-detested use of tear gas continued against groups of people identified as protestors around the country, as in Cairo, around the Ministry of Interior and Tahrir Square, the military er”}began the construction of a concrete Wall [“Security Barrider”] topped with coils of barbed wire to cordon off the demonstrators. Some have vowed to mount the barriers on Friday, however… And members of the currently-ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] announced they would go ahead with the first phase of parliamentary elections that have been scheduled to begin on Monday 28 November.
In the Palestinian reconciliation summit, however, there were few concrete results announced — how could there be, with big economic sanctions ready to drop if there had been any announced agreement? — but it was packaged as a general overall success, the launch of a new era of cooperation.
Photo provided by the Office of Khaled Meshaal and published in The Daily Star [Lebanon] here: Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
are seen together during their meeting in Cairo.
(AP Photo/Office of Khaled Meshaal) EDITORIAL USE ONLY, NO SALES
An analysis of the outcome
The Associated Press reported, hours after the meeting, that “Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal talked for two hours in Cairo but did not reach agreement on touchy matters like the composition of an interim unity government and a date for elections. The meeting raised new questions about whether the rivals are serious about sharing power, or just going through the motions”. This report was published on the CBS news site, here. This is probably way too superficial, and simplistic.
The Daily Star published excerpts from an AFP interview with Meshaal afterwards. According to The Daily Star, Meshaal told AFP that “We believe in armed resistance but popular resistance is a programme which is common to all the factions … Every people has the right to fight against occupation in every way, with weapons or otherwise. But at the moment, we want to cooperate with the popular resistance”.
Reigning in the rocket fire from Gaza
According to the story in The Daily Star, “the two leaders approved a two-page document reiterating their commitment to the main elements of the original deal, which was signed in May, and hailed a new era of ‘partnership’ between their two factions. The document, a copy of which was seen by AFP, outlines an agreement to observe a truce in the West Bank and Gaza Strip along with ‘the adoption of popular resistance which is to be to be strengthened … This resistance will be increased and organised and there is to be an agreement on its style, on greater efficiency and the formation of a framework to direct it’, it said”.
This language seems to apply to Gaza as much as to the West Bank — though Popular Resistance is the strategy that evolved recently in the West Bank in opposition to The Wall and to expanded Israeli settlement activity, and was endorsed by Abbas in the lead-up to the Palestinian “UN bid”, filed on 23 September in New York, for full membership in the international organization.
At the end of October, UNESCO members voted in Paris to admit Palestine as a full member state — and Israel immediately imposed economic sanctions including withholding of the transfer of VAT + customs tax it collects for the Palestinian Authority under the 1994 Paris Protocol, part of the Oslo Accords. Though the US Congress also voted for sanctions, including a withholding of funding to UNESCO, the Obama Administration is trying to hold off on measures that would negatively impact the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian firing of rockets from Gaza in response to every Israeli attack is claimed as a “natural response”, but the IDF Chief of Staff has recently said that he believes an major military operation may be required to stop this. Now, smaller armed groups claim credit for these sporadic actions, but the Israeli military + government say they hold Hamas ultimately responsible, because it is in control in the Gaza Strip.
Abbas has in the past called this sporadic projectile firing “stupid”, but hasn’t spoken out too much recently, at least publicly.
The Daily Star added that “Meshaal did not go into detail about the focus on popular resistance but said he had instructed the movement’s leadership in Gaza and Damascus, to ‘adopt a political line and one with the press that doesn’t upset the conciliatory spirit and that truly reflects the atmosphere of reconciliation … I asked them to take practical and positive measures to flesh out this agreement’.” This report is posted here.
So, one effect of this meeting appears to be that the Hamas political leadership will be able to use the highly-valued doctrine of national unity to back up a decision to stop projectile firing by smaller separate militant groups.
Palestinian political prisoners
AP also reported that “In a show of good intentions, the two leaders decided that activists of the two movements would be released from detention, said Azzam al-Ahmed, an Abbas envoy”. This was one of the main demands of the Palestinian “youth” protesters, and has been announced several times this year, before and after the reconciliation agreement initialled in May.
Like the Egyptian military leadership, the Palestinian leadership has claimed that the prisoners each side holds are held on charges of criminal activity, not their political beliefs…
Left to right: Hamas’ Khalid Meshaal, PLO + Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas, reconciliation negotiator Azzam al-Ahmad of Fatah
The pending “UN bid”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian “UN bid” is still pending, and the Hamas leadership has not opposed it. There is no indication from the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, at least for now, of what decision they will make in light of a likely failure to get enough votes to pass n the UN Security Council, which would trigger a threatened U.S. veto.
Either way, the lack of support within the UN Security Council is a “come back later” decision.
Continue reading Egypt to hold parliamentary elections on Monday; no date announced for Palestinian elections