Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat)
On Thursday, I wrote:
“After two hours of talks in Cairo today, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and head of the Hamas politburo Khaled Mashaal emerged with glowing statements regarding a new partnership…
“‘There are no more differences between us now. We have agreed to work as partners with joint responsibility.’
“No more differences indeed. That’s pure PR hype. What matters now is not these glib words, but what follows in terms of true understandings. There is no announcement at this point regarding composition of the joint government, or — most critically — of the identity of the projected new prime minister.”
Well, now, two days later, we have confirmation of the true state of affairs from Khaled Abu Toameh, writing in the JPost:
“Efforts to achieve reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas have stumbled over the formation of a Palestinian unity government and the reconstruction of the Palestinian Authority security forces, representatives of the two rival parties said over the weekend…
“Following last Thursday’s summit in Cairo between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, the two sides expressed optimism regarding the prospects of implementing the Egyptian-engineered reconciliation deal that was announced last May…
“But over the weekend it transpired that differences between the two parties remained almost the same as they were before the summit.
“In addition to the ongoing dispute over the make-up of the proposed unity government, Fatah and Hamas have failed to solve their differences over the reconstruction of the security forces and the release of detainees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip being held by both sides.”
One Fatah official in Ramallah cited by Abu Toameh said that, while not much was accomplished in the Abbas-Mashaal meeting, “The most important thing was that the two leaders met and agreed to continue talking about reconciliation and unity. It will take a long time before we ever see real changes on the ground.” There will be another round of talks next month.
It sounds as if Abbas is getting cold feet about this “bold” move that would have alienated the West. Recent news reports had suggested that Abbas had finally agreed to relinquish the idea of retaining Fayyad as prime minister. But either those reports were wrong, or, as seems to be the case, pressure from the US and the EU has now made him reluctant to make that concession to Hamas.
According to the Fatah official cited by Abu Toameh, Abbas explained to Mashaal that the US and the EU would punish the Palestinians if Fayyad were dropped. (This is not news.) “But this did not change Mashaal’s position. Hamas believes that in wake of the Arab Spring, Arab governments would compensate the Palestinians for any loss of Western financial aid.”
So Hamas is also operating from nether-nether land, if its officials — such as Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, cited by the PLO news agency Maan — believe this. Several Arab countries have failed to honor their pledges to the PA.
As to any cooperation with regard to the security forces, the Fatah official quoted Abbas as having said that merging Hamas with the PA security forces would — are you ready? — “give Israel an excuse to launch attacks on these forces under the pretext of fighting terrorism.”
Cute, no? The “pretext” of fighting terrorism. The fact that we would be dealing with an entity that is still committed to the “armed struggle” is beside the point, right?
The US probably read Abbas the riot act here, advising him that funds for his security forces would be cut entirely and without delay.
Abu Toameh tells us that the one matter that was agreed upon between Abbas and Fayyad was to hold presidential and parliamentary elections next May. But this is being jeopardized by the issue of detainees: each side, while having pledged to no longer do so, is continuing to arrest supporters from the other side. And there is no way Hamas will participate in elections if these conditions prevail.
What we have here is the quintessential “stay tuned” situation.
But, while, no, I am not surprised, neither am I pleased that this deal between Fatah and Hamas may fall apart. For I can see it now: instead of cessation of pressure on us coupled with a recognition here in Israel that Oslo is fully moribund, there would be renewed pressure by the US and the EU, who would rush to point out that Abbas could have joined forces with Hamas but didn’t and thus is entitled to concessions from Israel to bring him to the table.
What the world would not grasp — would choose not to perceive — is that the mere fact of the willingness of Abbas to meet with the head of Hamas with regard to a potential merger tells us all we need to know about his attitude towards genuine peace with Israel.
From the PA news agency Maan today, there is this — play both ends against the middle — statement:
“PLO official Saeb Erekat said Saturday that there can not be a two state solution without Palestinian reconciliation.
“Erekat said he considered political reconciliation a ‘supporting point’ of the peace process.”
A great deal more to follow shortly. But here a story as we begin a new week:
In an archeological dig at Masada in the 1960s, date palm seeds that were 2,000 years old were discovered.
A few years ago, scientists from the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies attempted to germinate these seeds. Their efforts — undoubtedly extraordinary — were successful. Carbon-14 radioactive isotope testing of the first sapling to sprout, done when it was 15 months old, showed that indeed its seed was from the period of the Roman siege of Masada.
Now the young tree, which is about 2.5 meters high, has been planted at Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava. Until now it had been kept in a secret located at the kibbutz.
The tree is genetically different from modern date palms, and is identified with the Kingdom of Judea. It was said to have not only a delicious taste but therapeutic qualities. Hadassah Medical Center — which has a keen interest because it does medical technological research — is involved in this project.
An extraordinary story with exciting implications.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.