The chance for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority evaporated as representatives of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement signed a reconciliation deal last Wednesday in Cairo with its bitter rival, the Islamist group Hamas. “We have agreed to form a government composed of independent figures that would start preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections,” said Azzam al-Ahmad, head of Fatah’s negotiating team in Cairo. “Elections would be held about eight months from now,” he added.
In the meantime, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby told Al-Jazeera in a April 29 interview that the “Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza will be open on a permanent basis within seven to ten days.” The minister said Egypt would no longer accept that the Rafah border, Gaza’s only crossing that bypasses Israel, remain blocked, describing the decision to seal it off as “shameful.” Al-Jazeera quoted an Israeli official saying: “We are troubled by the developments in Egypt, by the voices calling to annul the peace treaty, by the rapprochement between Egypt and Iran, and by the upgrading of relations between Egypt and Hamas.”
The deteriorating relations between Egypt and Israel, and the recent revelation of a Fatah-Hamas deal, are additional signs of President Obama’s failed Middle East policies.
Obama’s call for former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak “to go” helped replace him with the current military council that has empowered the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. That same regime is now aiding its Gaza-based affiliate Hamas. The U.S., Israel, and former President Mubarak considered Hamas to be a terrorist organization. The Mubarak regime, along with Israel, had closed all crossings to and from Gaza to prevent Hamas, an Iranian client, from bringing in arms.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas could spell the end of the peace process. “You can not have peace with both Israel and Hamas,” Netanyahu said.
Reacting to the reconciliation deal, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told members of the media that Israel will not negotiate with the Palestinians if Hamas is part of their leadership. “Hamas,” Barak added, “is a murderous terrorist organization that fires rockets on civilians and has recently fired at a school bus with children in it. This is an organization that we have nothing to negotiate with.” Barak charged that Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, is responsible for what just happened. He added: “ Israel will request from its friends in the world not to negotiate with such a government.”
Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, in the only public response from the Obama administration thus far, declared:
As we have said before, the United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace. Hamas, however, is a terrorist organization which targets civilians.
Mahmoud Abbas has his own reasons for turning away from the Obama administration. In an interview with Newsweek, he said: “It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze. I said OK, I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with a ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, jump.” According to Asia Times, “Mahmoud Abbas made a very specific choice of his path to Palestinian independence […] forsaking his relationship with the U.S. ”
The consequences of that choice are clear. Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official, stated: “Our program does not include negotiations with Israel or recognizing it. It will not be possible,” he added, “for the interim national government to participate or bet on or work on the peace process with Israel.”
While there is no substantive difference between the Fatah charter and that of Hamas (both call for the disappearance of the Jewish state), the Hamas charter does not mince words:
“Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”
“The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf, consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. ”
“There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals, and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”
“After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.”
Although the Fatah charter is more moderate in tenor than that of Hamas, it seeks the same end — armed struggle or jihad against the “Zionists,” i.e., the Jews. Article 8 exemplifies this:
The phase in their history, through which the Palestinian people are now living, is that of national (watani) struggle for the liberation of Palestine. Thus the conflicts among the Palestinian national forces are secondary, and should be ended for the sake of the basic conflict that exists between the forces of Zionism and of imperialism on the one hand, and the Palestinian Arab people on the other. On this basis the Palestinian masses, regardless of whether they are residing in the national homeland or in diaspora (mahajir) constitute — both their organizations and the individuals — one national front working for the retrieval of Palestine and its liberation through armed struggle.
If Israeli or American officials entertained any illusions about peaceful Palestinian intentions, the inclusion of Hamas in any future Palestinian decision-making would render the peace process null and void. It is time the Israeli government told the truth about the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority: they have long been as intransigent as Hamas and never intended to compromise on the recognition of Israel as a state of the Jews or on the right of return of Palestinian refugees into Israel.
With Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad sidelined in the wake of a newly constructed interim government — and Fatah’s leadership bent on an end to negotiations with Israel and a quest for unilateral recognition from the UN — a Third Intifada is highly likely. With this one, we’ll see rockets flying. The peace process will have effectively ended, and the total failure of Obama’s Middle East policies will be fully exposed.