Friday, February 09, 2007

The Fatah-Hamas Deal

Fatah and Hamas have agreed to form a government that shares power between their rival factions in an attempt to end the fighting between the two groups that has recently engulfed Gaza. The new government will divide cabinet seats between Hamas and Fatah (currently, Hamas has all the seats by virtue of its electoral victory last year), and Hamas will keep the prime ministry, currently held by Ismail Haniyeh. Specifically, Hamas agreed to cede control of two important ministries, interior and foreign, the cabinet positions of which will be filled by independent politicians.

This agreement is nothing more than a bandage, temporarily stanching the bloodshed but doing nothing to resolve the long-term, fundamental problems in the Palestinian territories. First, as the Washington Post notes:
It remained unclear whether the new government will meet conditions laid down by Israel and international donors to fully restore funding to the Palestinian Authority that they cut off after Hamas's victory in January 2006 parliamentary elections.

The agreement does not explicitly recognize Israel's right to exist, a key international demand. Hamas officials said their movement would not do so.
So, the deal does little to end the political and finanical isolation imposed on the Palestinians as a result of Hamas' refusal to accept the negotiated framework that has been advancing. To wit, follwing the signing of the deal, the spokesman for Hamas, Ghazi Hamad said “I wonder why the issue of recognizing Israel is the key to everything? We are interested to end the siege but not at any cost.”

More importantly, the deal does nothing to resolve the most important problem which is the inability of any Palestinian government to maintain a monopoly of violence. Both Hamas and Fatah will hold on to their militias. Since the two parties still fundamentally differ on how to deal with Israel as well as on domestic issues, sooner or later the political comity of the meeting in Mecca will dissolve and each side will have the option to fall back on violence to try to get its way. Until this problem is solved and armed force is concentrated in the hands of the government, rather than the political parties, neither this deal nor any other will bring stability to the Palestinian territories or peace to the Palestinian people.

10 comments:

Jeb said...
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Jeb said...

Seth,

Good post. I think your analysis of the security situation -- in particular, the lack of government authority over militia groups -- is a good one. This is definitely a key issue that needs to be addressed.

WeeZie said...

Seth,

Based on your expertise of IR, why is to fundamentally crucial for the Palestinians to accept Israel? If Hamas does not accept Israel's right to exist, will that change Israel's actual existence? If the Palestinians DO in fact recognize Israel's right to exist, which Israel do they recognize? Does it not matter that Israel has not set permanent borders?

It seems that the "international community" which is the same "international community" that backed the war in Iraq is really non-existent. By evidence of what happened during the Summer in Lebanon, it seems that the actual "people" of the world, not the governments, are on the side of the Palestinians and for that matter, the Lebanese.

You also mentioned that the PA is ineffective. Does the economic boycott not contribute to the ineffectiveness of anything being done. Thousands of Palestinian government workers have not been paid for months, how does that fact contribute to the fact that people are taking to arms rather than starve?

Lastly, it has been noted that the attacks on Israel in the past few months, specifically the rockets have come from Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Brigade, the latter being attached to Fatah. Where does Hamas come into this picture? There are more Palestinian casualties weekly than there are Israeli casualties yearly. Do these facts not matter in the larger scheme of things?

WeeZie said...

and when I say Palestinian casualties, I am not talking about inter-fighting, I am talking from IDF bullets and rockets.

Seth Weinberger said...

Weezie:

Is it crucial for the Palestinian government to recognize Israel because it signals a willingness to limit the claims of territory. Why would Israel cede land to a group if Israel believes the group will eventually ask for more or continue the armed struggle? It's a similar problem to the one Chamberlain faced vis-a-vis Hitler in Munich; if it was known Hitler had limitless ambition, ceding the Sudetenland wouldn't have made any sense as it wouldn't have satisfied Hitler. If the Palestinians truly want all of Israel, then Israel has no incentive to give them anything.

Once the PLO was willing to recognize Israel's right to exist, and went further in accepting the pre-1967 borders, Israel was willing and able to negotiate. I'm not sure why you claim Israel hasn't set permanent borders...Israel formally owns the land contained in the pre-1967 borders, but has made no legal claim to the territories (the Golan is another story, but Israel has formally annexed the Heights).

The PA is ineffective, but it was ineffective before the economic boycott. The problem is not in its economic management or woes (although the boycott has certainly made a bad situation worse) but in the PA's inability to maintain a monopoly of violence. How can Israel negotiate with the PA if other groups are commiting acts of violence, and when, as you note, those groups are affiliated to some degree with the government itself? Until the PA consolidates its power and crushes the rival militias, there is no chance of hope or peace for the Palestinians.

WeeZie said...

You are making it appear as though the greatest crimes committed against the Palestinians have been by other Palestinians. Any comparison to Hitler or WWII is ridiculous. First and foremost, the Palestinians trying to reclaim land that was theirs and have been kicked off since 1967, second, under U.N, the refugees are supposed to be allowed to return to their homeland, no matter the reason they left.

If the Palestinians accept Israel's right to return, that is tantamount to accepting the occupation AND the continued claiming of more land. That is what I am saying, they have no permanent borders in the sense that "this is where we will stop and beyond this point, we will never grab more land or build settlements." With that sort of statement being made, Hamas would have a reason to go to the table.

Seth Weinberger said...
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Seth Weinberger said...

WeeZie: If you do not read my posts carefully, there's no point in this discussion. I don't compare anyone to Hitler or WWII nor do I claim that the Palestinians have done more damage to themselves than has Israel. I drew an analogy between the negotiating strategies of Israel/PA and England/Germany. That's it. Please try to read what I write and consider the arguments themselves, rather than hijacking them to suit your own rhetorical and political ends.

Furthermore, the land in dispute, legally, has never belonged to the Palestinians. There has never been a sovereign nation in those lands. The West Bank and Gaza, now occupied by Israel, has always been controlled/owner by someone other than the Palestinians and there is simply no way to claim otherwise.

WeeZie said...

I am not hijacking something, I am simply looking at the big gaping contradiction in your argument.

Matt Eckel said...

With respect, weezie, Mr. Weinberger is (as far as I can tell) making no moral argument either way for who any of this land "ought" to belong to. He is making the point that Israel cannot rationally negotiate with a group that does not accept its legitimacy at the most basic level. Also, it is the PALESTINIAN right of return - to land currently under Israeli control - that is in dispute. Finally, the Israelis have not made legal claims to any of the territories, though they will no doubt want some of their settlements recognized in a final peace deal. Such a deal, which WOULD set final and legally recognized borders, is the surest guarantee that Israel will not, to use your phrasing, "grab more land."