The Palestinian political earthquake: a suggestion for breakthrough
By Walid Salem (for Safe Democracy)
Walid Salem says that beyond the panic, and the fear of Hamas success in the Palestinian elections and impact on peace and on the area, the international community has two political options towards Hamas, and also two financial options. First, working for a short term arrangement of conflict management that include Hamas extending the Tahdiya unilaterally (calmness) and second, helping for transformation of Hamas towards recognizing of Israel. Regarding the option of stopping the funding to the Palestinian Authority, Salem says it is problematic: it will lead to collapse mainly to the health and education sectors among other sectors, and this will be not more than a punishment to the Palestinian people, which will lead to more support to Hamas. Walid Salem is the director of Panorama, the Centre for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development, East Jerusalem office.
Politically speaking the two options in hand are:
Working for a short term arrangement of conflict management that include Hamas extending the Tahdiya Unilaterally (calmness) with Israel, while in Israel from its side will take further steps of disengagement in the West Bank.
Working for transformation of Hamas position towards recognizing Israel, in the expense of developing a plan with Israel leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state within a three years period for instance. In this case Hamas will be delivering the recognition with a price that it gets and that it can also provide to its voters with an ability to legitimize it, and therefore keep their support to Hamas.
It is obvious that these two political options are contradictory with the position that act only pressuring Hamas to recognize Israel, without any guarantees in advance in regard of getting to statehood. This was the main mistake of Oslo from Palestinian point of view, and Hamas will never repeat this mistake, therefore its leaders keep saying in response to American pressure on them to recognize Israel “Do you want us to recognize the legitimacy of occupation?. We will never ever do that”. (Statements of Khaled Mashal, Musa Abu Marzouq, Mahmoud Zahhar, Ismail Hanniyeh, and Sami Abu Zuhri: All are Hamad leaders, in the last week). This response of Hamas despite it might look negative, but it also include a positive signal, that is: If the Palestinian statehood against occupation will be recognized, Hamas will recognize Israel that will become without occupation.
If one of these two options will be chosen, the discussions can be conducted with Hamas about it indirectly through Egypt, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia and other Arab countries. These Muslim countries have a crucial role to play now in getting Hamas to moderation, especially since Hamas electoral program spoke about joint strategies with the Arab and Islamic countries. Also countries like South Africa, Russia, China and India might also have a role in such a process, of course in cooperation with the Palestinian elected President Abu Mazen.
With that all said it seems that Egypt will play the crucial role in this process taking in consideration its good relations with all the Palestinian groups, and also with United States and Israel. Therefore it is surprising that Hamas delegation, Abu Mazen, and the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni were all in Cairo in the same day.
GIVING SOMETHING TO HAMAS
In other hand the option of pressuring Hamas to deliver now political positions, without giving Hamas anything will be completely counterproductive, it will look for all the Palestinians as unbalanced position supportive to Israel in the expense of the Palestinian rights, therefore it will lead to more popularity to Hamas, moreover it will be easy to attack it by what Hamas leaders already began to speak about as the Western verbal support to democracy, while they reject the outcomes of it practically, which make the West as they claim not democratic.
Finally in that point, because Abu Mazen failure in the last year to build the functions of the PA, the international community began to speak a year ago about functionality as a condition to successful state. Now with Hamas a new context is arising were Hamas will success functionally if it will have the money, and if they will form the government, therefore the formula of functionality as a condition to statehood takes now a new shape, were the content of the functions become the important, whether it will be promoting or prohibiting the human rights.
With that last point the two financial options of the international community are linked: one of them is to bypass Hamas in funding as ex-American President Jemmi Carter suggested, which might be an option that will create tension and chaos in the Palestinian society.
The other option will be linking between funding to Hamas government, and the political process in the following concrete way:
Hamas will deliver an approval to extend the Tahdiya with Israel for four years separating us from the next legislative council election, this will also include putting the Islamic Jihad in discipline, and Abu Mazen pledge to control Fatah Al-Aqsa Brigades. Also Hamas will commit itself not to change the Palestinian curricula, and all the previous secular laws.
In the expense of that Hamas will be allowed to form a government, and the process of political moderation of its position will accompany its period in the government. Also international funding will be given to Hamas government.
Hamas failure to deliver this king of position should mean preventing Hamas to compose government, and choose another way of supporting the Palestinian people mainly in the fields of health, education, and PA employees salaries, by bypassing Hamas.
With that second option, even if Hamas compose a government it will collapse in three months because it will not have enough funding to that three fields.
Besides these two options, the option of stopping the funding to the Palestinian Authority is problematic, because it will lead to collapse mainly to the health and education sectors among other sectors, and this will be not more than a punishment to the Palestinian people, which will lead to more support to Hamas.
Without that a Palestinian- Palestinian dialogue should begin, soon in Cairo the order to extend the calmness and get to a political partnership.