[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


September 24, 2006


This Week in Palestine…behind the News with Hanna Siniora


Is it the Point of No Return?


President Mahmoud Abbas returned home from his trip to New York in a more desperate internal political quandary. Abbas on his way to the UN a week ago, had in hand an agreement with Hamas to form a National Unity government based on the National Reconciliation agreement ratified by all the political parties including Fatah and Hamas. Even before Abbas left Palestine, he knew that Israel and the USA will not deal with such a coalition government.


The EU Foreign ministers and to some extent Tony Blair, expressed that they will deal and talk to a National Unity Government if it is formed. President Abbas who grasped the position of Hamas as expressed by PM Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders and the unchanged American and Israeli stand, gave an overoptimistic address at the UN as if he had the ability to deliver Hamas to recognize the state of Israel. The answer from Hamas reverberated immediately; Ismail Haniyeh unequivocally said he would not head a coalition government that will recognize Israel explicitly.


Hamas did not deviate from its public stand, since Haniyeh formed the Hamas cabinet, the movement moved toward implicit but not explicit recognition of Israel, and Hamas offered a long term truce in return for dropping the sanctions against Hamas in government. Abu Mazen erred in his UN declaration, because he went beyond what was agreed upon based on the Reconciliation document.


Abbas has two alternatives, one to develop the Reconciliation document and form a National Unity government that will not please the Americans and Israelis, but might satisfy the Europeans, or use his executive rights dismiss the Hamas cabinet, form an emergency coalition cabinet, with or without Hamas. If the second alternative is used Hamas will not join such a government , the PLC within a month, the lifetime of such a cabinet, will vote it out and the crisis will be upon us again. Some Hamas leaders, like the present Foreign Minister Dr. Mahmoud Zahhar, said that such a course is a prescription for civil war.


Nabil Abu Rdeineh, the official spokesperson of the presidency said that the international community will not accept a Palestinian cabinet based on the National Reconciliation Document. Internal talks and meetings in Palestine have been ongoing for months to reach a common understanding among all Palestinian parties, and all the movements including Fateh hailed the signing of such a document. Can it be that the dictates of Israel and America are more important than an internal Palestinian accord. Does Abu Mazen have a blanket Israeli and American assurance that a PA government that accepts the three preconditions-explicit recognition of Israel, disarming the militias and recognizing previous Israel-PLO agreements- will lead to the emergence of an independent, sovereign viable Palestinian stale with East Jerusalem as its capital. The outcome is very doubtful, Israel to-day has a government fighting for survival and its leaders have no stomach to embrace a bold position of accepting a sovereign Palestinian state in the near future.


Fateh and Hamas, Abbas and Haniyeh, have to recognize their priorities. The tensions in Gaza, even in the West Bank, indicate that at any moment and as a result of the constant friction taking place daily, civil war is eminent. Red lines have been crossed, important security officers and others have been cold bloodly murdered; we are at the abyss edge. People are starving; Abbas and Haniyyeh promised civil servants one month salary payment before Ramadan, no payments were made, hunger can lead to rash actions and to disaster.


In my humble opinion, to-day what is urgent and needed is a coalition government that can prevent disaster and civil war. The Palestinians first and foremost must show a united front, after long and arduous talks, the parties arrived to the National Reconciliation document, please, implement it, there are no magic solutions, Israel is not ready, Bush is facing crucial midterm congressional elections, Europe is undecided . The Arab world should push forward the formation of a National Unity government, finance it to meet its obligation, Europe will eventually back this course. Even Bush must understand that in order to fight terrorism, in order to isolate governments that encourage terrorism, the Bush administration after the November elections must dramatically alter course. To isolate Iran, to gain the support of the Arab and Islamic countries, the USA must make it clear to Israel that the long festering conflict should be resolved based on the two state solution with Jerusalem a shared capital. No two ways about it, delaying such prospects, will bring disaster to all of us regionally and globally.


In the meantime, Hamas will have to understand that a reformed PLO is the only representative of the Palestinian People and that the two state solution is the only solution. If we Palestinians want all of Palestine, we will only bring more suffering to our people, as the Israelis must understand that by preventing the emergence of a Palestinian state within the borders of 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital would bring suffering and disaster to the Israelis.


The outline of a solution has been recognized for many years, inept leadership on all sides including the Americans and Europeans have destabilized the region, and fanned hatred and terrorism. No more delay, the situation is ripe for more violence that defeats the purpose for peace, stability and prosperity.

We all have to rise as one in order to make the impossible, possible and soon, sixty years of wars and sufferings is enough.


Let the Bushs, the Clintons, the Chiracs, the Miracles, the international community as well as the leaders of Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon unite in what Anwar Sadat said, no more war, no more war.


Palestinians want peace, want a compromise solution, back them toward reaching their modest aspirations, allow them to guide their ship to a safe haven: a free independent Palestine in the borders of 1967.




Mr. Hanna Siniora is the Palestinian Co-CEO of IPCRI – the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information  www.ipcri.org