Friday, 9 February 2007

More analysis of the Abbas-Meshaal deal

This is a follow-up of this post on a new agreement reached in Mecca, Saudi Arabia between the leaders of Palestine's two major political parties, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, on a new power structure for the Palestinian Authority.

The BBC's analysis (which I recommend) plays down hopes, with a usual does of realism.

The Mecca agreement, reached after two days of intensive negotiations in the Saudi city of Mecca between the Palestinian factions, raises two sets of questions.

Will it end the weeks of fighting in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah fighters?

And will it persuade the United States, the Europeans and other international players to resume much-needed economic aid to the Palestinian Authority?

Only if both things happen can the deal be regarded as a breakthrough. Hence the caution with which news of the Mecca accord has been greeted.

The most immediate test is for the two factions to rein in their fighters while the politicians finalise the creation of a power-sharing government.
Ismail Haniya of Hamas remains PM
Key interior, finance and foreign ministries to be run by independents
Reports say Hamas to take nine cabinet posts, Fatah six and one each to four other parties
No explicit recognition of Israel

What might be the problem is what is not in the power of these politicians — i.e. the militant wings of their parties and even the actions of Israel.

Another factor is the response of the West to this latest agreement, a reaction lackluster thus far.
Palestinian Islamist group Hamas urged the West on Friday to accept a new Palestinian unity government which it said was the only way to ensure stability in the Middle East.

Hamas and Fatah signed on Thursday a coalition deal to end factional warfare and to try to win back Western aid halted because of Hamas's refusal to recognise Israel.

"We have agreed with the Saudis to market this agreement internationally. Our (Saudi) brothers are in constant contact with the Americans and Europeans and I believe there is a possibility to market this agreement," Hamas government spokesman Ghazi Hamad told Reuters.

"They cannot ignore this agreement and impose their own conditions," he said in reference to the United States. "The European Union should open a dialogue with this new government and this is the only way to have stability in the region."

There was a muted international reaction to the accord sealed in Saudi Arabia between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal.

The United States, which spearheaded the economic sanctions, was silent. The European Union said on Friday it would study the deal "in a positive but cautious manner". France welcomed the agreement and said the international community should back the new government. Britain described the accord as "interesting".
Surely they could do better than that?

The Economist seemed to share a similar viewpoint to my post on this latest development in Palestinian politics.

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