March 5, 2007

Mecca Agreement Falling Apart?

The Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah supposedly gave the warring Palestinian factions a basis for a unity government, one that would satisfy Western concerns and allow for aid to resume to the Palestinian Authority. The latter certainly proved false when Hamas refused to allow the PA to recognize Israel and honor its past agreements with the West as the basis of that aid. Now it looks like it won't even produce the unity government it promised, as Hamas and Fatah have begun accusing each other of undermining the pact:

Differences over the identity of Fatah and Hamas ministers in the coalition cabinet are threatening to torpedo the Mecca agreement, a top Abbas aide told The Jerusalem Post. He also said "some differences" had sparked disputes between the two parties over the interpretation of the Mecca agreement, particularly regarding the status of previous agreements with Israel and recognition of United Nations resolutions concerning the Israeli-Arab conflict.

"Some elements in Hamas are trying to thwart the Mecca agreement," the official said, warning against a resumption of intra-Palestinian violence. "These elements are unhappy with the agreement that their leaders reached in Mecca and are preparing for more fighting. They benefit from the continuation of the state of anarchy and lawlessness in the Palestinian territories."

In Gaza City, Fatah leaders issued a statement threatening to employ an "iron fist" against unnamed Hamas members for allegedly trying to derail the Mecca agreement. "We know who these people are and who's behind them," the statement reads. "They are serving the interests of a party that is hostile to our people."

In response, Hamas accused unnamed officials close to Abbas of working to thwart the Mecca accord. "While Abbas and the Fatah leadership are trying to consolidate the agreement, some people around them are trying to sabotage their efforts," the movement said in a leaflet distributed in Gaza City shortly before the Abbas-Haniyeh summit began.

Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh are conducting talks on the composition of a Cabinet. Those talks have encountered difficulties, with neither side making many concessions. They have two more weeks in which to form a government after Haniyeh's resignation allowed for a reorganization. If he cannot form a government, Abbas might be able as president to impose one -- which would touch off a civil war.

Right now, Abbas and Haniyeh have their hands full preventing that outcome, if in fact neither of them want one. That seems hard to believe, given the numerous attacks both sides have conduction on their counterparts. It's even more difficult to believe, given the divergent aims of both groups. Hamas wants an Islamic state that will encompass all of Israel as well as the PA, while Abbas wants a secular state that starts out in the territories -- and then will encompass Israel later.

It makes little difference whether war comes now or later. Regardless of their present efforts, neither Israel nor the Quartet will resume aid to the PA while Hamas dictates policy. They will not get a dime until they accept the two-state solution and accept Israel as a permanent neighbor. Eventually, the resultant poverty will touch off a war. The only questions will be when and how it starts.


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Mecca Agreement Falling Apart?Ed Morrissey The Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah supposedly gave the warring Palestinian factions a basis for a unity government, one that would satisfy Western concerns and allow for aid to resume to the Palestini... [Read More]