Palestine Monitor, the website affiliated with the Al Mubadara movement of Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, has published what it says is the “Text Of The Agreement Between Fatah And Hamas” to be officially signed in Cairo this week. If this text is genuine – and while the source is trustworthy there is no way to verify that it is genuine – then it shows the questions I raised about the agreement when it was first announced last week are no closer to being answered. Here is the reported text (in italics), with my commentary in between:
Text Of The Agreement Between Fatah And Hamas
3 May 2011
Translated by Al Mubadara, the Palestinian National Initiative, this document is currently in the process of being signed by all of Palestine’s factions and parties.
Under the auspices of Egypt, delegations from the Fatah and Hamas movements met in Cairo on April 27, 2011 to discuss the issues concerning ending the political division and the achievement of national unity. On top of the issues were some reservations related to the Palestinian National Unity Accord made in 2009.
Both political parties mutually agreed that the basis of understanding made during the meeting are committing to both parties in the implementation of the Palestinian National Reconciliation Agreement. The basis of understanding agreed upon by Fatah and Hamas are as follows:
A. Election Committee:
Both Fatah and Hamas agree to identify the names of the members of the Central Election Commission in agreement with the Palestinian factions. This list will then be submitted to the Palestinian President who will issue a decree of the reformation of the committee.
B. Electoral Court:
Both Fatah and Hamas agree on the nomination of no more than twelve judges to be members of the Electoral Court. This list will then be submitted to the Palestinian President in order to take the necessary legal actions to form the Electoral Court in agreement with the Palestinian factions.
C. Timing of Elections:
The Legislative, Presidential, and the Palestinian National Council elections will be conducted at the same time exactly one year after the signing of the Palestinian National Reconciliation Agreement.
The section on elections deals only with limited technicalities about holding elections within the framework of the Oslo Accords for elections restricted to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It seems explicitly to recognize the existence of “the Palestinian president” (presumably Mahmoud Abbas), thus reversing Hamas’ long-standing insistence that Abbas’ term of office had expired and that he was without legitimacy.
It does not explain how free and fair elections can be held while Hamas is considered a “terrorist” organisation by Israel and will presumably not be able to operate or campaign freely in the West Bank. Both Fatah and Hamas have engaged in severe political repression of their opponents. Yet, this reported agreement offers no guarantee that, notwithstanding the brutal Israeli military tyranny both also operate under, all Palestinian authorities commit themselves to political freedoms for all Palestinians.
2. Palestine Liberation Organization
The political parties of both Fatah and Hamas agree that the tasks and decisions of the provisional interim leadership cannot be hindered or obstructed, but in a manner that is not conflicting with the authorities of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
This clause is mysterious. What it seems to be saying is that the Fatah-controlled PLO as currently constituted can carry on with its activities “representing” the Palestinians even without any sort of mandate or accountability. In other words, it gives authority to the Abbas-controlled PLO to continue recognizing Israel and engaging in the peace process charade which Hamas formally rejects. There is nothing here about reforming the PLO or democratizing it to restore its legitimacy. A key demand heard from more and more Palestinians, especially youth who staged demonstrations on March 15, is for elections to the Palestine National Council in which all Palestinians would take part, not just those in the West Bank and Gaza.
It was emphasized that the formation of the Higher Security Committee which will be formed by a decree of the Palestinian President and will consist of professional officers in consensus.
Another vague clause. Again, it seems to restore the legitimacy of Abbas as “president” in the eyes of Hamas (a remarkable achievement for Abbas). Nothing here about ending “security coordination” (collaboration) between the forces of the Fatah-controlled West Bank Palestinian Authority and the Israeli occupation. Hamas it seems is ready to join a “unity” government which openly cooperates with the very Israeli occupation army which is besieging and routinely bombarding Gaza, and assassinating Hamas’ cadres. A bizarre arrangement to say the least. It certainly implies that there will be no true integration of Palestinian armed groups, but each faction will continue to control its own, under the umbrella of a superficial “Higher Security Committee.” This is very unpersuasive.
A. Formation of the Government:
Both Fatah and Hamas agree to form a Palestinian government and to appoint the Prime Minister and Ministers in consensus between them.
There have been press reports that such a “consensus” would mean getting rid of Salam Fayyad, the darling of the “international community” (the Western donors to the PA), and the likes of Thomas Friedman who have been talking up Fayyad’s fantasy state building initiative. It would be interesting to see if the “state-building” initiative survives the departure of Fayyad. The same reports suggest that a “consensus” candidate to replace Fayyad would be billionaire Munib al-Masri. If this happens it would confirm the neoliberalization of Palestinian political elites and the move further and further from any sort of genuine democracy and popular accountability – a process that has been mirrored in many other countries and former colonies (Palestine though being somewhat unique in undergoing this process of while still a colony).
B. Functions of the Government:
- Preparation of necessary condition for the conduction of Presidential, Legislative and the Palestinian National Council elections.
- Supervising and addressing the prevalent issues regarding the internal Palestinian reconciliation resulting from the state of division.
- Follow-up of the reconstruction operations in the Gaza Strip and the efforts to end the siege and blockade that is imposed on it.
- Continuation of the implementation of the provisions of the Palestinian National Accord.
- To resolve the civil and administrative problems that resulted from the division.
- Unification of the Palestinian National Authority institutions in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.
- To fix the status of the associations, Non-Governmental Organizations and charities.
5. Legislative Council:
Both Fatah and Hamas agree to reactivate the Palestinian Legislative Council in accordance to the Basic Law.
Straightforward enough, but again, hard to see how a “government” can “govern” when Hamas ministers would be vulnerable to arrest or assassination by Israel and cannot move about freely. Fatah and Hamas may simply agree to keep running their respective West Bank and Gaza Strip fiefdoms as they are, while claiming to do it under one umbrella. The Palestinian Legislative Council if it meets now (though it would have to do so by video conference as West Bank and Gaza members cannot meet in one place), would have to meet presumably with the members that were elected in 2006, when Hamas won a huge majority. Does this mean that Fatah is now agreeing to respect the result of the election and abide by majority decisions?
It must not be forgotten that as of April 15 this year, Israel still held 13 members of the legislative council in its jails. Israel continues to detain and harass Palestinian elected officials.
What is also noticeably absent here are specifics. There are a lot of commitments to solve problems, but very few actual solutions. My main criticism stands. Hamas and Fatah seem concerned about running the Oslo Authority and offer absolutely nothing – in this agreement or beyond it – as a program or vision for Palestinian liberation that unites, includes and mobilizes all Palestinians. There is no mention of Palestinian rights, especially refugees, no mention of supporting popular struggle on the ground or BDS internationally, no mention of the situation of the Palestinian people as an occupied people struggling for freedom. For a long time Fatah has pretended it is running an actual state while in reality Israel dominates every aspect of Palestinian life. It now seems that Hamas are ready to join Fatah in that pretense. “Reconciliation” indeed! Fatah and Hamas may aspire to run the West Bank and Gaza “municipality” together, but we should not confuse that with deep reconciliation around a vision for the Palestinian people as a whole, and a strategy to reach it. That vision, alas, can’t be left up to them.
Note, Agence France Presse has also published an Arabic summary of the reported agreement.