Factions For Peace

Palestinians Still Grieve Over May 15, 1948.

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Tens of thousands of Jor­danians celebrated Nakba day by walking from Kar­ama village towards the Jordan River in an expression of sup­port for the Palestinians’ rights of return. The demonstration stressed loyalty for King Ab­dullah II and rejection of Zionist plans to have Jordan as a com­pensation for lost Palestine. Pa­per kites with the Palestinian flag were flown over the occupied territories.

201152683915111734_20In many other Arab countries, the Palestinians marked this year’s Nakba, the anniversary of the day on May 15, 1948, of the founding of Israel in Pales­tine, that brought a catastrophe upon them with a newfound sense of purpose in the wake of the reconciliation agree­ment that was signed in Cairo in April. A Palestinian unity govern­ment is expected to be an­nounced under the reconciliation accord. The proc­ess should be smooth sailing, since it is clear that the various Palestinian groups have realized that their cause for libera­tion stands to suffer if they do not put their house in order and come up with a united platform.

The Cairo accord effectively brings Hamas back into the mainstream Palestinian libera­tion movement and will hope­fully end the existence of two Palestinian entities -the Ha­mas-ruled Gaza Strip and the Fateh-dominated West Bank under the Palestinian Authority (PA). The agreement calls for the formation of a caretaker gov­ernment of independents until legislative elections are held in a year’s time. That should set the Palestinian house in order. Israel sees the unity deal as a major threat to its design to impose its version of a “peace” agreement upon the Pal­estinians. In public, Is­raeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Pal­estinian President Mahmoud Abbas not to include Hamas in the pro­posed unity government. In private how­ever, the message is: don’t ever reconcile with Hamas, unity government or no unity govern­ment.

Many argue that if no Israeli­ Palestinian peace agreement is reached by September, all pros­pects for peace will be lost. That need not be the case. The Palestinians should go ahead with their quest for in­ternational recognition of their statehood within the 1967 bor­ders, and deal with the result­ing situation. Their best bet would be on European and Third World support for their cause, and for pressure that Is­rael would find difficult to re­sist despite backing from the US.

Netanyahu and company continue to ignore the signals from Hamas that it has indeed changed and that it has accept­ed the inevitability of having to deal with Israel. There have been many Hamas messages, starting with state­ments by its leader in exile, Khaled Mishaal, that the group was ready to accept Israel as a reality if the Palestinians are granted their right to set up an independent state within the 1967 borders, with Arab East Jerusalem as capital, and if an equitable solution is found to the problem of Palestinian refu­gees from the 1948 war.

That is effectively the politi­cal platform that was adopted by the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat. Israel had accepted that platform (although not the so­lutions that the Palestinians sought) and negotiated with the PLO.

In recent media comments, Mishaal also stated that Ha­mas gave Abbas the final say in armed resistance and made Hamas’ recognition of Israel contingent on Israel’s recogni­tion of an independent Pales­tinian state. No doubt, Hamas has learnt its lessons in the four years since it gained control of Gaza Strip and realized that the wave of Arab unrest might not be in its favor. The same goes for all other Palestinian groups and leaders, including Abbas himself, who lost one of his staunchest allies when Hos­ni Mubarak was ousted from power in Egypt. The Hamas leaders have also realized that their perceived al­liance with Iran would not be of much realistic use to the effort to recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.

Ghazi Hamad, the deputy for­eign minister of the Hamas gov­ernment in Gaza Strip recently stated: “The world should realize that we have made many chang­es. The international commu­nity should not run away from these changes.” Notwithstanding Israel’s and its US-led allies’ statements, the onus is on the mainstream Pal­estinian leadership to confirm the “changes” in Hamas and to deprive Israel of the argument that it does not have a Pales­tinian negotiating partner who represents the entire Palestin­ian people.

It is a tough mission. Israel and its supporters say that the price for the acceptance of Ha­mas as a part of the diplomatic scenario of the Middle East is the group’s renunciation of armed resistance, recognition of the state of Israel and accept­ance of past agreements signed by the PLO and Israel. It is a calculated stand. Israel knows well that Ha­mas would never meet the de­mands before it is assured of a fair and just settlement of the Palestinian problem. As long as Israel maintains its rejec­tion of the Palestinian people’s rights, there is no chance of Ha­mas agreeing to the demands..

More than anyone else, Ha­mas should see this catch-22 situation as damaging the Palestinian cause. Right now, international sympathy and support for the Palestinians is continuing to grow and Hamas could contribute to it signifi­cantly by making it known that it is not dedicated to destroying Israel and is willing to accept coexistence in Palestine as the basis for peace with Israel. It is this enigma that requires Jordan to resume its historical role that was snatched away by Mubarak of Egypt and Omar Suleiman a few years ago. Cairo does not have the same strong political cards that Amman en­joys. Only Jordan, which has the principal means to apply leverage on Hamas, can induce Mishaal to accept the new terms of the game and to secure the release of Gilad Shalit from captivity, as a strong signal to Netanyahu that all Palestinian factions are for peace.


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1 Response to Factions For Peace

  1. jaypinho says:

    It’s incredible how quickly and how far the Israeli political climate has moved to the right. Even the long agreed-upon 1967 lines as a basis (not even an end result) for borders is causing a ruckus.

    Netanyahu may have temporarily risen in Israeli polls following his contentious visit to the US, but his are entirely short-term gains. In the long-term, Israel will have to come to grips with its own irrationality regarding Palestine, if for no other reason than the demographic trends of Palestinians.

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