Jerusalem, 25 February 2007
Behind the Headlines: Hamas-Fatah Agreement does not meet requirements of the international community ====================================================================
Communicated by The Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem
Website: http://www.mfa.gov.il E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hamas-Fatah agreement reached at Mecca does not meet the requirements set out by the Quartet for any Palestinian government. To the contrary, this agreement, as well as Hamas' statements and actions, indicates that Hamas continues to seek to gain international legitimacy without compromising on its fundamentalist ideology, including its goal of the destruction of Israel.
It was the clear statements of the Hamas advocating violence, opposing a two-state solution, and denying the right of Israel to exist, as well as its direct involvement in terrorism, which prompted the international community to set out three clear conditions for any Palestinian government to attain legitimacy and international cooperation. The burden of proof that it has changed is on the Hamas, a designated terrorist organization. But in fact, as detailed below, express statements by Hamas leaders following the agreement leave no room for doubt that there has been no movement by Hamas towards accepting these foundational principles for peace.
The Quartet has demanded that any Palestinian government must be committed to these three conditions and that "it should contain no member" who has not committed to them. Participation in a government, the policy of which is not based on a commitment to these principles, can clearly not be considered to satisfy the Quartet's demand.
There is currently no agreed platform or binding agreement regarding the policy of a future government. The letter of appointment from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas included in the Hamas-Fatah agreement invites Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to form a government, but cannot in itself constitute the political platform of the future government and cannot be considered to represent fulfillment of any conditions that government is required to fulfill.
But even were the letter a binding commitment representing the policy of the new government, it would not meet any of the three fundamental requirements repeatedly set out by the Quartet: to recognize Israel, to renounce terrorism and violence, and to accept previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap.
1. Recognition of Israel
The Quartet's requirements recognize that there can be no hope of a two-state solution, unless each recognizes the right of the other to a state. Recognition of the right of Israel to exist is en essential precondition for any Palestinian partner in peace.
The Hamas-Fatah letter of appointment contains no recognition of the State of Israel. In fact, the word "Israel" does not appear in the document. Even the PLO-Israel agreements are referred to merely as "agreements signed by the PLO".
The fact that Hamas has not changed its intransigent position on this issue in the slightest was emphasized by Ismail Haniyeh's adviser, Ahmed Youssef just a few days after the conclusion of the agreement:
"The issue of recognition was not addressed at all in Mecca. In the platform of the new government there will be no sign of recognition (of Israel), regardless of the pressures the United States and the Quartet would exert." (Reuters 10 Feb 2007)
Similarly, Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan, emphasized that the agreement marked no change in Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel:
"The agreement reached at Mecca does not mean recognition of the Israeli entity... The position of Hamas is firm and well known and it is one of non-recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity...." (Interview to French News Agency 9 Feb 2007)
2. Renunciation of terrorism and violence
'Two states living side by side in peace and security' can never arise if one side still advocates the use of terror. For this reason, the Quartet has repeatedly insisted that any Palestinian government renounce terrorism and violence.
The letter of appointment contains no undertaking to refrain from terrorism and violence. To the contrary, the letter calls on the new government to commit itself to the National Conciliation Document. This document, it will be recalled, explicitly legitimizes the use of violence and terrorism, calling on the parties "to uphold resistance… in tandem with political action (Article 3) and "to lead and engage in resistance against the occupation" (Article 10). Such calls are, of course, in direct contradiction to Palestinian obligations in previous agreements, including the Roadmap, which call, inter alia, for an immediate end to "armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere."
Hamas' refusal to renounce violence was clearly stated by Hamas' representative in Lebanon, Usama Hamdan:
"Everyone knows that one of the conditions for recognition of the government and opening the flow of money to it was to be the end of violence and resistance. We said the resistance would continue and we have carried out actions such as capturing the Israeli soldier Shalit, as well as other actions against the aggressive occupation… Hamas still sees resistance as a strategic option and will not make any concessions until - if Allah wills it- we shall be victorious in Palestine." (Interview on Al-Manar radio station 14 Feb 2007)
In practice too, Hamas has given no indication of any intention to renounce violence. It continues to hold Gilad Shalit hostage, to smuggle illegal weapons and explosives into the territories, and to glorify terrorism and violence. In addition, it has taken no measures to implement Palestinian obligations to prevent acts of violence by other Palestinian groups, including the firing of Kassam missiles on Israeli towns and villages. To the contrary, Hamas government spokesmen have made clear that they support such attacks and have no intention whatsoever of preventing them.
3. Acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap
The Quartet has repeatedly insisted that any Palestinian government is required to accept previous Palestinian obligations and agreements, including the Roadmap. These agreements reflect the result of painstaking negotiations and compromises by both sides. There can be no value in working to new agreements with a partner who reneges on previous ones.
The letter of appointment calls on the new government "to respect the agreements signed by the PLO", but this falls far short of the Quartet's requirement for several reasons:
a. The respect for the agreements is stated to be 'on the basis' of the Palestinian higher national interests and other documents, including the National Conciliation Document which, as noted above, legitimizes and calls for acts of terror. A provision which makes respect for the agreements subject to these other considerations amounts to little more than a willingness to selectively accept those parts of the agreements which do not contradict Hamas' longstanding extremist goals.
The fact that the so-called 'respect' for agreements has no meaning in practice was explicitly noted by Khalil Abu Leila, of Hamas' political bureau. When asked whether Hamas has committed itself to respecting the PLO agreements, he replied:
"Only as concerns matters that do not contradict the higher interest of the Palestinian people. That is important. We as Palestinians can negotiate with the help of our Arab brethren and say: "Where then is the higher Palestinian interest? If we can agree, we shall act according to that agreement. I say that the way of the previous government, based on Palestinian unity, was in the right direction, for the higher Palestinian interest. If we can find that interest in the agreements (signed by the PLO) we shall abide by them. But if the interest lies elsewhere we must get rid of them (the agreements) and return to jihad (war) with the oppressive Zionist enemy.” (Interview to BBC Arabic Service 16.2.2007, )
b. While the word 'respect' seems to indicate a commitment to the agreements, the insistence of the Hamas leadership on not using the words 'accept' or 'commit', as required by the Quartet, suggests that they intend to mean something far less binding. Moussa Abu Marzouk, Deputy Head of Hamas Political Bureau emphasized the importance of this distinction in the days following the agreement:
"There were detailed discussions on this issue, regarding the words 'respect' and 'commit' and it was clear to all that Hamas could not commit to something which is not included in the political positions it has presented on this issue… The fact that Abu Mazen accepted the word 'respect' in the letter of appointment made an important contribution to the breakthrough." (Interview on Hamas website 17 Feb 2007)
The distinction between the terms 'respect' and 'commit' is all the more apparent since, in the same letter of invitation, the word 'commit' is used - in relation to the commitment of the new government to the 'higher interests' of the Palestinian people and to other documents, including the National Conciliation Document.
Additionally, it will be recalled that the Quartet called for respect not just for agreements, but also other obligations, "including the Roadmap", since the Roadmap is not a formally singed agreement between the parties. The omission of any reference to the Road Map raises troubling questions as regards the scope of the provision.
c. Statements by Hamas leaders make it clear that Hamas' fundamental opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian agreements remains unaltered. Usama Hamdan, Hamas' representative in Lebanon, restated its uncompromising position:
"All the agreements with the occupation were historic errors because they implied recognition of the legitimacy of occupation and opposition to further resistance." (Interview on Al-Manar Radio station 14 Feb 2007)
d. Hamas' actions similarly disprove any suggestion that it is prepared to comply with the provisions of the agreements reached between the PLO and Israel. These agreements set out obligations, inter alia, requiring the Palestinian side:
- to take action against all expressions of violence and terrorism (see e.g. Interim Agreement, Annex I, Article 2; Wye River Memorandum paragraph A; Roadmap, Phase 1)
- to restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere (e.g. Roadmap, Phase 1)
- to confiscate all illegal weapons and ammunition (e.g. Sharm e-Sheikh Memorandum, Para. 8; Roadmap, Phase 1)
- to respect internationally-accepted norms and principles of human rights (e.g. Interim Agreement, Article XIX)
- to foster mutual understanding, abstain from incitement, and ensure that its education system contribute to peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples (e.g. Interim Agreement XXII)
Any suggestion that Hamas respects these agreements contrasts starkly with its continued smuggling of illegal weapons, its glorification of violence and terror, its vicious incitement against Israel, and its persistent violation of the fundamental human rights of the Palestinians it claims to represent.
In conclusion, the evidence indicates that Hamas has not changed, neither in principle nor in practice, in order to comply with the international community's requirements set out by the Quartet, or to acquiesce to the political platform of a Palestinian government which is committed to these principles. To the contrary, Hamas' outright rejection of these requirements was stated clearly by Khalil Abu Leila, of Hamas' political bureau, just days after the agreement was reached:
"I believe that Mecca was a success, because the aim was reached, but as far as the principles of Hamas are concerned, Hamas maintains its positions for the higher Palestinian interest. It continues not to agree to surrender and obey the conditions of the Quartet." (Interview on BBC Arabic Service 16 Feb 2007)
The conditions set out by the Quartet, which Hamas continues to reject, are not obstacles to peace, but rather the basic tests by which the international community can determine whether any Palestinian government is capable of being a partner in peace. As such, they are not subject to negotiation and cannot be satisfied by vague formulations or hopeful interpretations.
Were any government which refuses to meet these basic foundational principles for peace to receive international legitimacy and support, this would be a grave setback for prospects of peace, and a betrayal of the genuine moderates, on both sides of the conflict, who truly believe in a two-state solution to the conflict and seek to make it a reality.
==================================================================== Communicated by The Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem
Website: http://www.mfa.gov.il E-mail: email@example.com ====================================================================