Fatah and Hamas Announce Progress on Doha Agreement

On May 20, Hamas and Fatah declared that they were going forward with the implementation of the Doha agreement signed last February. Hani al-Masri is skeptical of this rhetoric, given that so many agreements in the past have failed. The success of this new agreement will depend on the two parties' willingness to pay for political unity.

al-monitor Palestinian President Abbas and Hamas leader Meshaal shake hands as Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad sits between them during an agreement signing ceremony in Doha 06/02/2012. Photo by REUTERS.

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doha agreement, palestinian authority, palestinian, mahmoud abbas, khaled meshaal, hamas, fatah, benjamin netanyahu

May 22, 2012

On May 20 [2012], a few days after major changes were made to the government of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Fatah and Hamas declared that they had agreed to implement the agreement they reached in Doha in February.

The new agreement stated that the formation of a government of national unity must be synchronized with the work of the election commissionin the Gaza Strip. In the event that the elections are not held on time for any reason beyond the control of both parties, the two sides will meet to discuss the possibility of forming a new national-unity government to be headed by an independent, mutually agreed-upon figure. The new agreement also provided for the resolution of the issue of public freedoms as early as possible before the election day.

What has happened all of a sudden? Why has the Doha Agreement been brought back into the spotlight? Is this some sort of a joke? Is it an attempt to manipulate Palestinian hopes and emotions?

I do not believe that the agreement will be taken seriously unless it is implemented, starting by the formation of a national unity government and the registration of voters for the elections process. The Palestinian people are fed up with false promises and unimplemented agreements.

In truth, the Doha Agreement was not implemented due to certain practices of Hamas’ political bureau. Hamas did not complete its elections process; Khaled Meshaal’s term as Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau was not renewed, nor was a new Chairman elected.

In essence, the Doha Agreement was not implemented because it was originally drafted in haste. It overlooked key issues such as restructuring the organization and its political program as well as the consolidation of institutions. The agreement focused only on the elections and the formation of a government.

The agreement ignored the issue of the government’s political program. Will the national-unity government’s program be that adopted by the president, as President Abbas declared upon signing it? Or will the government be deprived of a political program, as declared by Hamas, since politics falls within the responsibilities of the organization, and not that of the authority? Should Hamas’ point of view be adopted, the US Administration, Israel and the international community will carry out their threat of boycott and cut off aid. This will happen if Hamas fails to comply with the Quartet’s decisions.

In light of the deep rifts over key issues, the many unimplemented past agreements and the ongoing dialogues, there is reason to doubt the success of the new agreement until proven otherwise.

So what were the factors underpinning the new agreement between Hamas and Fatah?

First, Netanyahu’s response to Abu Mazen’s letter was quite disappointing, as expected. Also, the early Israeli elections have resulted in the broadening of Netanyahu’s scope of powers, making his government the most powerful government in the Israeli history. Consequently, Netanyahu has been called the “King of Israel.”

The Obama administration is no position to exert pressure on Israel, especially in view of the upcoming US presidential elections. The US government cannot make proposals regarding the resumption of negotiations as it continues to oppose the Palestinian bid for full membership in the United Nations. However, it should be noted that the US was present when the Fayyad government was amended.

In light of these developments, the Palestinian leadership finds itself once again at an impasse. The option of the negotiations will only push Palestinians toward the end of the road. The formation of a new government, on the other hand, did not provide any solutions.

Second, Hamas went too far in its reliance upon the Arab Spring’s impact on the region and the rise of political Islam to power. It overestimated the repercussions this could have for Palestine. Hamas believed that this would consolidate its position on the Palestinian map, only to find out that it lost its bid. The Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely to rule Egypt, or even win a landslide electoral victory, as seemed likely during the first year of the Arab revolutions. According to polls, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, is not leading the presidential race. What’s more, the triumph of Moneim Aboul Fotouh or Mohamed Morsi does not mean that all authority in Egypt would be placed in the hands of the new president. The military council remains a key player in Egypt’s politics, regardless of who the new president is.

Perhaps the sudden change in Hamas’ position toward its rival Fatah can be explained in terms of the relation between the organization and the political Islam groups. The Muslim Brotherhood advised Hamas to espouse a more moderate policy when it comes to its relationship with the US administration and Israel. It also advised it to strike a deal with Fatah with an eye to Palestinian political legitimacy in gneral. The Muslim Brotherhood based its advice on the fact that Egypt may take a long time to stand on its feet again. It will need external support to secure regional stability and make it through the transitional period given all the security, economic and political factors at stake.

Third, Egyptian intelligence services played a key role in the last meeting that took place in Cairo between Fatah and Hamas, and in the resulting outcomes. The Egyptian military council seeks to settle things before the elections so that it can secure its role in the upcoming phase.

The success of the new-old Doha Agreement depends to a large extent on the political will to implement it and the willingness to pay for unity. Thus, Palestinians ought to give up private programs and interests and be willing to agree upon a political program that would include the common interests of both factions. Furthermore, the new agreement must provide for basic Palestinian rights and goals. It must be based on international laws and UN resolutions, binding Israel to implement its obligations as stated in the agreements it has signed with the Palestinians.

Moreover, Palestinians ought to proceed with the radical restructuring and reform of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, so that it includes the different colors of the Palestinian political spectrum. The organization must restore its role, in word and in deed, as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. The organization’s charter must also include a national agenda that would be inspired by the best provisions stated the previous national and nationalist agendas. Palestinians ought to learn from their past experiences and take advantage of the new developments and realities on the ground.

Moreover, civil and security institutions must be unified. As a first step, the police apparatus in the West Bank and Gaza strip ought to be united, so the that the Central Election Commission is able to supervise the election process. Such unity would help end and manage the division.

A real political partnership based on periodic elections and democracy must be established in Palestine. In light of this partnership, no party would be allowed to monopolize power or be excluded. This is would be an additional guarantee for Palestinian unity and lead it to embark on the road of victory.

Palestinians need to join hands to tip the balance in their favor, once and for all. They must practice their right to self-determination and focus on ending the occupation. However, they must not neglect other fundamental rights such as the right of return, the right to establish an independent sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital within the 1967 borders and the right of the Palestinians to equality and individual rights. All Palestinians in the diaspora have the right to live in dignity until they return to their homeland.

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