Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Picture coming into focus"

Hamas described the Israeli attacks that killed 13 in Gaza yesterday as the result of an unannounced agreement between Olmert and Abbas, and Al-Akhbar spells this out, as follows:
As each day goes by, a little more is revealed about the "agreements" that weren't announced at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit. The day after Mahmoud Abbas announced the ban on [non-"government"] weapons in the West Bank, yesterday it was Israel's turn to carry out its part of the bargain, targeting the resistance in the Gaza Strip, leading to the martyrdom of 13 Palestinians and the wounding of a large number of others.

With this Israeli operation, the shape of the what went down at Sharm el-Sheikh starts to become clearer little by little: The West Bank and its resistance was handed over to the jurisdiction of Abbas, to issue his "presidential orders" at will, as long as he adds the expression "criminal" to the qualification "armed". Meanwhile, Olmert will focus his attention on Gaza....And as Hamas said: This marked the start of implementation of the secret agreements that were reached at Sharm el-Sheikh between Abbas and his coterie on the one side, and Olmert and his retinue on the other.

The Palestinian resistance factions in the West Bank joined in rejecting the "Abbas decree" and they said he should first remove the occupation from the streets of the West Bank, accusing him of putting the weapons of the resistance on the same footing as weapons of celebration or of disorder....
Even within the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is part of Fatah, only part of the group agreed with the order, while the majority rejected it. There were other signs that the post Sharm el-Sheikh battle for the hearts and minds of Palestinians was not going well:

The Abbas government decided to reject the Olmert proposal for release of 250 prisoners (who were to be all Fatah, and none with Israeli blood on their hands), on the basis that it is insulting for Olmert to differentiate in this way among participants in the resistance. Hani al-Hassan, a member of the PLO central committee and a top Abbas adviser, had to be fired from the latter position for saying that the events in Gaza were the result of what was being attempted by US General Keith Dayton and his ally Dahlan. So it goes.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Mesriyoun cited unnamed sources in the Eguptian foreign ministry to the effect that there has been a policy shift in the direction of more diplomatic involvement with Hamas: The paper said there is a plan to move Egypt's security delegation back to Gaza City (it was moved to Ramallah following the Hamas takeover, in what was interpreted at the time as a cutting of the relationship with Hamas), in order to be ready to promote Hamas-Fatah negotiations. There is also a plan to invite the head of the political wing of Hamas Khaled Meshaal and a delegation for a discussion of various issues including the possibility of Hamas-Fatah negotiations, and also the possibility of a deal for the release of the Israeli soldier Shalit in exchange for a large number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails (this would reportedly be a larger number than the 250 proposed by Olmert at Sharm el-Sheikh). The Egyptian sources went out of their way to stress what a big change this is in the Egyptian approach to Hamas, citing as one indication the remarks of Mubarak in an interview with the Israeli paper Yediot Ahronot, where he emphasized Egypt's intention to work hard for resumption of Hamas-Fatah talks.

Finally, the Egyptian government sources talked about the possibility of bilateral Egypt-Syrian meetings, either in Cairo or in Damascus, as a further stimulus for Palestinian talks, given the growing Syrian importance.

There you have it: Collapse of the land-of-milk-and-honey narrative of the Israel-Fatah-US alliance; but also the collapse of that part of the plan that was supposed to see Mubarak turn on Hamas...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

More in Al Ahram on Egypt's policy shift:
Change of tack
(snip)In an interview with state-run TV on the same day, Mubarak said Hamas's control of Gaza "does not pose a threat to Egypt's national security". Also on Tuesday Mubarak told the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot that Egypt's security delegation -- which had moved to Ramallah following Hamas's seizure of Gaza -- would return once things calmed down.

Hamas's leadership, which had initially criticised the Sharm El-Sheikh four-way summit, applauded Mubarak's insistence on dialogue. Mubarak's call, said Haniyeh, "stems from a realisation that the complex situation can only be resolved through dialogue". Both Abbas and Olmert kept mum.

While Egypt's change of heart surprised many, there had been signs ahead of the Sharm El-Sheikh summit that Cairo's approach towards the Gaza crisis was changing. Following an official invitation from Egypt, Ramadan Shallah, a leader of the Damascus-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad, arrived in Cairo on Friday to discuss ways out for the current impasse. According to Shallah, who held talks with Egyptian intelligence officials, there was agreement on the need for Hamas and Fatah to talk. The problem, he said, was Abbas's refusal.

And, Let's talk, again
(snip)Sources say that tentative agreement for a round of discussions next month was secured during the week, first by General Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman who has been in touch with Hamas leaders who Egypt qualifies as moderates, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, then through the bilateral talks President Mubarak held this week with Abbas in Sharm El-Sheikh ahead of a four-way summit that also included the Jordanian King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. One source suggests that Mubarak has convinced Abbas to stop his threats of a permanent boycott of Hamas. Judging by President Mubarak's inaugural statement at the opening session of the Arab- Israeli summit Monday evening, along with statements made to Egyptian television on the same day, Cairo seems keen to dispel its image of siding with Fatah leaders who had decided to isolate Hamas. (snip)

As for Israel: Reconcilation stymied
(snip)This week, the Israeli army arrested Hamas political leader Sheikh Saleh Aruri, who was released three months ago from an Israeli prison, after serving 15 years, including six without being charged or tried.

The reason for the arrest is believed to be connected with his contacts with Fatah leaders in the West Bank for the purpose of reconciling differences between the two movements.

This week, Israel warned Abbas and his government not to renew contacts with Hamas as this would force it to re-adopt the same draconian measures now imposed on the Hamas-led government. The brazenness of the Israeli warning shows Israel's vested interest in ensuring Abbas's dependence on the Jewish state both financially and politically.

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So it goes. Thanks for the Vonnegut reference.

7:19 PM  

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