A PROPOSED MODUS VIVENDI WITH HAMAS
"Unless there is a genuine revolution within the Wafd Party, which seems to me improbable, I think that we must give up any idea of getting an agreement out of the Wafd so long as they remain a united organisation. If this is correct then logically our policy should be to embarrass and discredit the present Government on every occasion. We shall not do this by appearing the more 'reasonable and restrained' of the two parties...and by showing occasionally that we can hurt them more than they hurt us. This is, I am sure the right answer if the situation is seen from the purely local point of view, but it does not of course take into account the reactions of the rest of the world, consideration for which must inevitably act as a brake on our actions. The corollary is seemingly that we should try to persuade the State Department - (a) that there is not foreseeable chance of reaching a long term defence agreement with the Wafd; (b) that we must try to turn Egyptian public opinion
against the present Government; (c) that the best way of doing this...but to discredit the Government and show that its policies have not only failed miserably but that they tend to bring physical evils in their wake."
Minute by D.V. Bendall, of the Egyptian Department, 29 October 1951, FO [Foreign Office] 371/90144 JE 1051/357. Copy of the original in my possession.
"The Quartet underscored its continued commitment to the principles of partnership and negotiation leading to a two-state solution, as embodied in the Roadmap. A lack of action by the parties in certain key areas has stalled progress on the Roadmap. The Quartet underscored the need for both parties to avoid actions which could prejudge final status issues or undermine progress toward this goal.
The Quartet reiterated its grave concern that the Palestinian Authority government has so far failed to commit itself to the principles of nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap. The Quartet noted the absence of a commitment to these principles has inevitably impacted direct assistance to that government and expressed its deep concern about the consequences for the Palestinian people. The donor members noted their willingness to work toward the restoration of international assistance to the Palestinian Authority government once it has committed to these principles.
The Quartet discussed the current situation in Israel and the West Bank, and Gaza. It condemned the Palestinian Authority government's failure to take action against terrorism and the justification of the April 17 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. The Quartet urged it to act decisively against terrorism and bring an end to violence. The Quartet noted that President Abbas condemned the April 17 attack as he has consistently condemned all acts of terrorism in the past.
The Quartet expressed its concern over Israeli military operations that result in the loss of innocent life. The Quartet calls for restraint and asks Israel to bear in mind the potential consequences of its actions for the population. The Quartet expressed its concern about settlement expansion. It continues to note with concern the route of the barrier, particularly as it results in the confiscation of Palestinian land and cuts off the movement of people and goods. The Quartet reiterated the importance of both parties avoiding unilateral measures which prejudice final status issues.
The Quartet discussed the humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza. It expressed serious concern about deteriorating conditions, particularly in Gaza. The Quartet expressed concern about delivery of humanitarian assistance, economic life, social cohesion, and Palestinian institutions. The Quartet reiterated its support for assistance directed to help meet the basic human needs of the Palestinian people and promotion of Palestinian democracy and civil society, and called upon the international community to respond urgently to assistance requests by international organizations, especially UN agencies, active in the West Bank and Gaza. The Quartet urged both parties to take concrete steps to implement their obligations under the Agreement on Movement and Access".
Issued 9 May 2006, see: www.state.gov.
If one reads the above minute, one will notice immediately, that with a few changes,
the Foreign Office tactics outlined above, could be used to describe the Israeli & American tactics used vis-`a-vis the Palestinian, Sunni fundamentalist group, Hamas in the immediate aftermath of the latter's forming a government in the late winter of 2006. Like the Wafd, it was felt that Hamas, if its policies were discredited before the Palestinian people, that then the latter would disown the former quite easily and quickly. The 'discrediting' process, in both cases involving a policy of pinpricks and pressures on both the innocent population and the government. In the case of the Wafd (the party of historical, liberal-bourgeois Egyptian and Arab nationalism), the end result of the policy advocated by the Bendall, was that within less than four months, the Wafd was ousted from power. And, within less than one year, the Monarchy was overthrow by a clique of Officers, headed by Gamal Nasser. The rest as they say is history....A history which all agree did not turn out very well indeed for either the Egyptians or the British (or the Americans for that matter). Indeed, today it is the weakness of secular, liberal-bourgeois, nationalist parties and groupings like the Wafd, which is held up as being one of the major faults and deficiencies of the Near East as a whole.
In the case of Hamas, the policy pursued by the Israelis, and the Americans in particular, with the concurrence (albeit reluctant at times) of the EU and Russia
(who with the UN form the rest of the so-called 'Quartet) has been one quite open in its aspirations to force through the downfall of the Hamas government in one form or other. And, while the language in the Quartet's statement back in May of last year, was full of concern about the greatly worsening conditions in the Palestinian territories, the concern as such is merely of the crocodile variety. Most especially since much of the worsening of the conditions of the Palestinians in the territories, is due to: a) Israeli sanctions both military and economic which have
been employed, sometimes quite brutally, on the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza; b) the severe reduction in International assistance, primarily by members of the Quartet, to the Palestinians, due to the formation of the first Hamas government in the late winter of 2006; c) in a quite consistent fashion, both the Americans and the Israelis, followed a policy of overt pressures on the Hamas government, in order to either overthrow it, and, or render it a nullity. In the case of Israel, this included (mainly in 2006), especially after the abduction of an Israeli soldier, in June 2006, of regular and violent military incursions into the Gaza strip, regardless of the earlier (much publicized) Israeli withdrawal from the same in 2005. In the case of the United States, it chose to implement a policy of covertly arming, factions within Fatah (Hamas main antagonist, and the historic carrier of
Palestinian nationalism), in an effort to wear down, if not to overthrow the Hamas
The programme was the brainchild of the pro-Zionist, neo-conservative head of the Near Eastern desk at the National Security Council, Elliott Abrams. According to Joshua Landis' excellent Syriacomment.com, close to One Hundred Million
Dollars in military assistance was funneled to Fatah elements in an effort to force out the Hamas government, via a 'hard coup' (allegedly Abrams own words as expressed in am meeting in mid-2006). Not surprisingly, the programme was less than a success, so much so, that in mid-December 2006, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz stated that Israeli intelligence told Prime Minister Olmert, that notwithstanding both the economic pressures, the ongoing Israeli raids and incursions, and the faction fighting with Fatah elements, it was not Hamas, but, Fatah which was 'disintegrating'. And, that any attempt to force new elections on the Hamas government would have the upshot of destroying Fatah completely (see: "Elliott Abrams uncivil war", 8 January 2007 in www.syriacomment.com).
An assessment shared by both the Egyptian, Jordanian as well as Saudi governments.
Perhaps it was due to the failures of all the above referenced pressures on Hamas, and, the concomitant continuing disintegration of Palestinian President Abbas's
Fatah, which lead Rihyad to convene a summit between the two parties, in the latter part of February. The result was, in essence a near complete victory for Hamas: it remains in power; Abbas retracts his previous threats of new elections or to dismiss
Hamas from power; and finally, Fatah agrees to take part in a national unity government, under Hamas, something which the latter attempted to get Fatah to do
one year ago. As per the agreement itself, it on the face of it, does not comply with any of the principal demands of Israel and the Quartet powers (most especially the United States): it does not unconditionally endorse the Oslo Peace process, it does not renounce violence unconditionally, and, does not recognize Israel either. On all three issues, issues which lead to the attempted strangling of the Hamas government in its bed, the Mecca agreement cobbled together by the Saudis is silent. Again, more evidence that it was Hamas, not Fatah, notwithstanding all the covert American pressures, which came out on top. The reaction of the Quartet Powers and Israel to the agreement has been a mixed one: Russia has been positive, Israel the most negative, openly lobbying Washington to continue the same failed policies of the last year. It is the European Union countries which at this time, appear the most conflicted: tomorrow in Brussels, foreign ministers of the EU are to
agree on a joint policy statement concerning the Mecca agreement. According to the Beirut Daily Star, various powers appear to be pulling in one direction or the other. With France arguing for meeting Hamas halfway, and, Germany arguing for keeping in line with the Americans, unless Hamas agrees to the three conditions outlined above (see: "European States differ on New Palestinian Cabinet", www.dailystar.com.lb).
Into the above impass, the Brussels based, International Crisis Group, has jumped into the breach with a well thought out report, pointing the way forward to potentially resolving the crisis over Hamas. According to the report:
"A year of pressure and sanctions has extracted little from Hamas....The Quartet - the U.S., EU, Russia and UN - needs to adopt a pragmatic approach that judges a new government by its conduct and seeks to influence its deeds, not its members' ideology. The alternatives are either illusory or worse"
Accordingly, as Robert Malley, ex-Clinton White House Special Assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs (and perhaps Dennis Ross leading antagonist in the years 1996-2000), and the Crisis Group's Near East programme director, comments:
"If the International Community is serious about its proclaimed goals, it will help stabilise inter-Palestian relations, broker a comprehensive Israel-Palestinian ceasefire, permit the unity government to govern and press for meaningful negotiations between Abbas and Olmert....It will see Mecca as an opportunity to revive the peace process, rather than as yet another excuse to bury it".
To which one can only say: Amen! It is obvious in retrospect, and, to some of us, even at the time, that however disagreeable Hamas' fundamentalist ideology was and is, as long as it is willing to play the Democratic game, which it has shown itself to be willing to do, notwithstanding all the provocations that it has suffered from,
there is nothing to be done, by way of ousting it from power. And, of course the attempt to do so, has abysmally failed, which is the real meaning of the Mecca Accords. At this point, getting Hamas to agree apriori to statements which have little real meaning diplomatically and concretely, is both meaningless and pointless. The problems related to negotiating a meaningful Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, are dependent upon mutual concessions necessary in order to arrive at some type of modus vivendi between the two sides. Employing a policy of pure coercion, in an effort to get Hamas to change its ideological stripes is a fruitless exercise. Pur et simple. Indeed, one is tempted to think that the originators of the whole policy in Washington and Tel Aviv, entire motive is simply one of pire ca va, mieux ca est . Something of course, which simply allows Tel Aviv to sit crossed arm, and, do nothing concrete to resolve the impasse with the Palestinians. An impasse, which every day, every hour, every second, contributes to the increasing instability in the Near East, and, which is in every sense of the word, an albatross around the necks of the West in general and the United States in particular. So it has been, since 1947, which of course is when the Israeli lobby both in the USA and abroad has chosen to trump any rational view of Western interests in the region, for a policy which is purely aimed at satisfying
Israeli sacred egotism. Will it ever stop? In light of that question, we bring to your attention a summary of the Crisis Group's report, which we hope that you will
read and learn from. Enjoy!
It has been a year since Hamas formed its government – and what a dismal year it has been. The Islamists thought they could govern without paying an ideological price, Fatah that it could swiftly push them aside and regain power. By imposing sanctions and boycotting the government, the Quartet (U.S., European Union (EU), Russia and UN) and Israel hoped to force Hamas to change or persuade the Palestinians to oust it. Washington promised security and economic aid to encourage Fatah to confront Hamas and help defeat it. The illusions have brought only grief. The 8 February 2007 Saudi-brokered Mecca Agreement between the Palestinian rivals offers the chance of a fresh start: for Hamas and Fatah to restore law and order and rein in militias; for Israelis and Palestinians to establish a comprehensive ceasefire and start a credible peace process; and for the Quartet (or at least those of its members inclined to do so) to adopt a more pragmatic attitude that judges a government of national unity by deeds, not rhetoric. The adjustment will not be comfortable for anyone. But the alternative is much worse.
That Palestinians have wasted the past twelve months is difficult to contest. Treated as an international outcast and an intruder by much of the Fatah-aligned civil service and security forces, Hamas has been unable to govern. It has survived, and under these conditions survival is an impressive achievement. But it arguably is the only one. Fatah, obsessed with recovering power, has done virtually nothing to restore popular credibility and reform itself. Its periodic threats to call early elections or a referendum to unseat the Islamists exacerbated tensions without offering a way out of the stalemate. Palestinian Authority (PA) institutions are collapsing, law and order vanishing; relations between Hamas and Fatah deteriorated to near civil war.
Israel and the Quartet also squandered the year. Sanctions did not achieve their objectives. The EU – justifiably reluctant to starve the Palestinian people – pumped more money into the PA but more ineffectively and less transparently. Years of investment in now decrepit Palestinian institutions have gone down the drain. Western commitment to democracy in the Middle East has been roundly discredited. Hamas, weakened but still strong, is not going away. Diplomacy has been non-existent, violence between Israelis and Palestinians continues, and there has been no movement on prisoner exchanges. By almost every conceivable standard – governance, security, economics, institution-building and the peace process – there has been only regression.
The Mecca Agreement and the prospect it offers for a national unity government represent a chance to arrest the catastrophic slide toward civil war. The accord reflects basic conclusions reached by Hamas and Fatah: that neither can defeat the other; the public was turning against both; and continued strife could rapidly spin out of control. The opportunity is fragile: the two movements will have to show far more political flexibility and humility than either has evinced to date; tackle issues (Hamas’s integration into the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the militias’ integration into the security services) the accord barely mentions; and find ways to suppress deep resentment and a thirst for revenge experienced by many families and clans throughout the occupied territories.
International responsibility is equally heavy. The Quartet’s first reaction has been cautious. The agreement does not embrace the three Quartet conditions for resumption of aid and diplomatic contact: the new government will “respect” past Israeli-Palestinian accords, not abide by them; it will not recognise Israel; and it has not renounced violence – yet another reminder of how little a year of pressure and sanctions has extracted from Hamas. But what really matters is whether it will agree to and impose a mutual cease-fire; deal with Israel on day-to-day matters; acquiesce in negotiations between President Abbas, as leader of the PLO, and Israel; and, if a permanent status agreement were reached, allow it to be put to a popular referendum and pledge to honour its results.
Those standards should now apply to a government of national unity. The political and economic boycott should immediately be eased to allow discussions with the government as a whole and give Hamas an incentive to further moderate its stance; over time – based on PA performance, including release of Corporal Shalit in a prisoner exchange and adherence to a ceasefire – sanctions should be lifted in a calibrated manner. This is a course the U.S., politically and legally hamstrung, is unlikely to take. But it is one that Arab states and other Quartet members, principally the EU, should embrace. Maintaining sanctions and shunning a government expected to comprise some of the most pragmatic Palestinians would not bring the international community any closer to its goals. It would strengthen hardliners in Hamas, discredit Fatah further and risk provoking greater Israeli-Palestinian violence.
The main objective, of course, is to revive the peace process and move toward a two-state solution. Critics of the Mecca Agreement and the national unity government, chiefly the U.S. and Israel, call it an impediment to progress – an odd characterisation considering there was no peace process before Hamas won the elections and no peace process before Fatah agreed to join its government. It is also wrong. Mecca is a prerequisite for a peace process not an obstacle to it. Without a Hamas-Fatah power-sharing agreement and as long as the Islamists feel marginalised, unable to govern and in an existential struggle for survival, there can be no sustainable diplomacy. With sizeable public support, Hamas can deny Abbas the legitimacy required to make difficult concessions. It can launch attacks on Israel to torpedo talks. And in or out of office it can easily prevent a referendum designed to ratify any potential agreement.
If the international community is serious about its proclaimed goals, it will help bring stability to the Palestinians and broker a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire, permit the unity government to govern and press for meaningful negotiations between Abbas and Olmert. It will see Mecca as an opportunity to revive the peace process, rather than as yet another excuse to bury it.
To the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas):
1. Resume efforts to achieve a speedy prisoner exchange.
2. Issue a clear statement that:
(a) political negotiations with Israel are the preserve of the PLO chairman;
(b) any agreement produced by such negotiations will be submitted to a referendum; and
(c) the movement will respect the outcome of such a referendum.
To the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) and the PA Presidency:
3. Activate the Palestinian National Security Council, with the participation of all relevant officials, agencies and political organisations, as the supreme arbiter of security policy.
4. Convene the sub-committees established pursuant to the Mecca Agreement to reach agreement on power sharing and expand these to include participation by representatives of other political organisations.
To Hamas and Fatah:
5. Reach rapid agreement on the composition of the national unity government.
6. Pursuant to the Mecca Agreement, ensure that internal differences are resolved exclusively through dialogue and negotiations, and to this end cease incitement and provocative shows of force, including deployments by security forces and rallies by armed militiamen.
7. Withdraw all militia from populated areas and coordinate deployment of Hamas’s Executive Security Force (ESF) through the joint operations room established with Fatah.
To the Palestinian National Unity Government, when established:
8. Pursue a comprehensive and reciprocal Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire that is not only observed but also enforced on all armed groups by Palestinian security forces.
9. Engage with Israeli counterparts on day-to-day matters.
To the Government of Israel:
10. Pursue efforts to achieve a prisoner exchange and a comprehensive ceasefire.
11. In parallel to achievement of a ceasefire and prisoner exchange:
(a) hand over outstanding Palestinian revenues and resume regular transfer of withheld taxes; and
(b) facilitate Palestinian movement and trade by implementing the November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA).
To the European Union and its Member States:
12. Clearly adopt the goal of influencing Hamas’s conduct rather than ousting it from power.
13. Ease sanctions upon formation of a Palestinian national unity government by:
(a) engaging in dialogue with the new PA government; and
(b) gradually restoring funding to the government through the ministry of finance, seeking creative ways to deal with U.S. banking restrictions on doing business with the PA government.
14. Gradually lift sanctions and establish normal relations when and as the PA government meets performance-based benchmarks, including:
(a) facilitation of an Israeli-Palestinian prisoner exchange;
(b) achievement, observation and enforcement of a comprehensive, mutual ceasefire; and
(c) clear authorisation to President Mahmoud Abbas to conduct negotiations with Israel and commitment to holding a referendum on any agreement reached in those negotiations and to respect its results.
To Arab States:
15. Encourage respect for and implementation of the Mecca Agreement by both parties; upon formation of a Palestinian national unity government, re-establish normal relations and, working through the ministry of finance, increase funding to the PA.
16. Re-energise the March 2002 Arab League peace initiative, in particular by directing public diplomacy at Israel, proposing meetings to explain and discuss its contents.
To the UN Secretary-General:
17. Upon formation of a Palestinian national unity government, authorise senior UN officials to meet with PA cabinet members and Hamas leaders.
To the U.S. Government:
18. Cease efforts to scuttle or amend the text of the Mecca Agreement and use the potential lifting of sanctions as an incentive to influence the new government’s conduct rather than an instrument to remove it from power.
19. Adopt a more flexible posture with regard to other countries’ political and financial dealings with the PA, particularly concerning threats to blacklist banks which transfer funds on behalf of other governments.
To Members of the Quartet:
20. Press for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and put forward a more detailed vision of a permanent status agreement.
Amman/Jerusalem/Brussels, 28 February 2007