Palestinian Unity Government Proposed

Palestinian Unity Government Proposed

Last Monday, Hamas and Fatah agreed to form a Palestinian national unity government in a move to restore international aid to the Palestinian territories. Hamas would lead such a government, with Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas remaining prime minister. Stratfor reported on September 11:

Hamas seized the window of opportunity that opened in the wake of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict to end the stalemate in the territories and create a functional government. Though the deal has little intent to lead to fruitful peace talks between Israel and the pna [Palestinian National Authority], the Fatah-Hamas coalition will act as a stabilizing force to mitigate the financial constraints imposed by Western governments.

In the seven months since the terrorist group Hamas took over the Palestinian government, economic conditions have been deteriorating in the Palestinian territories due to lack of international funding. This, together with restive security forces no longer receiving paychecks, has resulted in a general breakdown of law and order in the territories. “In keeping with the traditional Palestinian method of conflict resolution, daily shootouts, assassination attempts on government and intelligence officials and the regular storming of government agencies defined the past several months” (ibid.). The Hamas government then became non-functional with Israel’s mass arrest of Hamas officials following the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier in June.

Facing a potential loss of public support if it proves unable to improve the Palestinians’ lot as promised, it is little wonder Hamas is seeking to stabilize the government and restore the flow of international funding into the territories. In its favor, Hamas still holds Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier it abducted, as a bargaining chip. It appears a deal is in the works whereby the Hamas officials in Israel’s custody will be released in exchange for the release of Shalit.

The power-sharing deal is based on the Prisoners’ Document of National Accordance, an agreement drafted in June by senior Hamas and Fatah officials imprisoned by Israel which implicitly recognizes the State of Israel. The terms of the agreement, which include Israel withdrawing to its 1967 borders, “likely are still unacceptable to the Israelis, but the agreement was never intended to create instant peace talks with Israel,” stated Stratfor. “Instead, by sharing government seats more equally with Fatah and thereby including more political figures who are amenable to negotiating with Israel and suitable to receive funding from international sponsors, Hamas can override the argument for continued sanctions by putting a new face on the coalition government—and begin to restart the flow of aid into the Palestinian territories” (ibid.).

Over the weekend, however, difficulties arose that threaten the formation of a Palestinian unity government. After Prime Minister Haniyeh made statements on Saturday indicating such a government would not necessarily recognize all previous agreements with Israel, Abbas responded by freezing discussions on forming a new government until after his current trip to the United States. Haniyeh denies that the talks have been abandoned, saying that they will continue upon Abbas’s return. Yesterday, Fatah lawmaker Azzam al-Ahmed berated Haniyeh for refusing to accept the peace deals with Israel signed by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (plo).

But why exactly are Fatah officials concerned about Hamas’s statements? Certainly not because of Fatah’s deep conviction of Israel’s right to exist, but rather because Hamas is failing to tow the party line. “The Fatah official considered Haniyeh’s remarks as ‘a new weapon’ that would be used against the Palestinians” (Xinhua, September 18). The argument is not over a fundamental difference in ideologies, but rather on the face of the movement that should be presented to Israel and the world. Hamas is up-front: Israel must be destroyed. Fatah subscribes to a more subtle approach: the plo’s “phased plan” for the destruction of Israel.

On September 12, the Fatah-run Al-Quds newspaper quoted Fatah spokesman Mahir Miqdad, saying he “emphasized that the source of the authority for the Palestinian undertaking is the Palestine Liberation Organization ….” sheds light on just what the implications are:

Interestingly enough, the plo retains a policy that seeks the same end goal as Hamas, but through different means.Following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the plo decided to adopt a three-stage strategy for Israel’s destruction, commonly known as the “Phased Plan.” The program was adopted at the 12th Session of the Palestinian National Council, held in Cairo on June 9, 1974, and stated, inter alia:* Through “armed struggle” [i.e., terrorism] an “independent combatant national authority” would be established over any territory that is “liberated” from Israeli rule. (Article 2)* To continue the struggle against Israel, using the territory of the national authority as a base of operations. (Article 4)* To provoke an all-out war in which Israel’s Arab neighbors “liberate all Palestinian territory”—meaning the destruction of the State of Israel. (Article 8)

According to Fatah officials themselves, the agreement for a unity government is based upon the above points. So in the end, the current difficulties between Hamas and Fatah have arisen not because of differing goals, but because of a different approach to achieving their common goal. We are yet to see how successful the Palestinians are in establishing a modified aid-friendly face, but we can be sure the danger they present to the Jews will not diminish.