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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 29-Apr-2011
29-Apr-11 News -- Hamas declares Quartet 'obsolete', while West mulls aid cutoff to Palestinians

Web Log - April, 2011

29-Apr-11 News -- Hamas declares Quartet 'obsolete', while West mulls aid cutoff to Palestinians

Skepticism over Fatah-Hamas reconciliation

Hamas declares Quartet 'obsolete', while West mulls aid cutoff to Palestinians

Wednesday's announcement of a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, and plans for a unity government, has thrown international Mideast politics into disarray -- or perhaps I should say "further disarray," because it's been in disarray for a long time. (See "28-Apr-11 News -- Palestinian factions announce surprise 'reconciliation' on path to statehood.")


Palestinian Authority officials Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat
Palestinian Authority officials Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat

The West has been dealing with the Palestinian Authority (the governing body associated with Fatah) for years, and many countries list Hamas as a terrorist organization. Once the unity government is formed, these countries will then have to deal with a named terrorist organization, or not deal with the Palestinians at all.

Thus, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle released a statement saying, "Hamas is not a dialogue partner for us because we donít work with organizations that fight with violence against Israelís right to exist." (Ynet)

The situation is even more complicated in the United States, where it's against the law to provide aid to organizations that have been designated as terrorist. The State Department was asked what would happen to the $400 million in funding promised for this year, and an e-mail message received by Reuters, did not directly answer the question:

"The current Palestinian government remains in place and our assistance programs continue. If a new Palestinian government is formed, we will assess it based on its policies at that time and will determine the implications for our assistance based on U.S. law."

In order for Hamas to be acceptable to the U.S. and other Western nations, it has to agree to the conditions set down by the Middle East Quartet (United Nations, Russian Federation, United States, European Union) several years ago: recognize the state of Israel; renounce violence; and honor past Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Hamas has said that it will not agree to any of these conditions.

A month ago, Haaretz was quoting Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's adviser as saying, "The Palestinians need American money, but if they use it as a way of pressuring us, we are ready to relinquish that aid."

On Wednesday, a Hamas spoken appearing on Al-Jazeera, quoted by Memri, went even farther, saying that the Quartet and its terms and conditions are obsolete:

"We know that one of the main issues that was in dispute was the fact that every government must have a political platform, and that if it has no political platform, the platform of the president becomes that of the Palestinian government. The Palestinian political platform was in dispute, due to the terms set by the Quartet.

"Now the Quartet has become obsolete, along with its terms, and it is not taken too much into consideration. The Quartet and its terms were not mentioned in these [reconciliation negotiations], even once."

However, other Palestinian officials appear to be scrambling to try to find a political formula that will keep Western aid and support continuing to the unity government. Mahmoud Abbas told reporters on Thursday that he would be the one conducting peace negotiations with Israel, according to Haaretz. I interpreted his remarks as trying to say that "it's a unity government, but really it's just me, so you can keep the aid flowing."

But senior Hamas figure Mahmoud Al-Zahhar seemed to be saying something different, in a statement to Al-Jazeera quoted by Memri:

"I should make it clear that the political platforms [of Fatah and Hamas] will remain different. The question is how to manage the platforms so that they do not conflict with one another... Our perspective is entirely different from that of Fatah. Fatah believes in negotiations, while we believe that negotiations with the Israeli enemy are in vain. We believe in armed struggle, in addition to responsible governing, as well as making the government's resources available to the resistance."

This statement would appear to make aid to the unity government impossible, since it explicitly says that "government's resources [will be made] available to the resistance." This appears to be a direct statement that aid to the unity government will go to the militants attacking Israel.

Hamas has a lot of supporters, especially in South America and in parts of Europe. In the media, Al-Jazeera is completely in the tank for Hamas. If the U.S. cuts off aids to the Palestinians, then perhaps these other supporters will fill the gap by providing their own money, thus allowing the Palestinians to eat their cake and have it too. However, many countries like to talk, talk, talk, especially when they can verbally attack the United States, but when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, they aren't as ardent.

The common wisdom is that Fatah and Hamas will do everything possible to paper over differences, in order to get the United Nations General Assembly to create a Palestinian State by international mandate in September. But as Hamas's Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said above, "Our perspective is entirely different from that of Fatah." The prospect of losing American aid and Western support, and having to depend on the likes of Venezuela, is going to make it very difficult to paper over the very great differences between the two factions.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Apr-11 News -- Hamas declares Quartet 'obsolete', while West mulls aid cutoff to Palestinians thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Apr-2011) Permanent Link
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