Hamas is Cornered, and Yet...
We followed with a great deal of attention the reaction of Hamas officials to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas's visit to Jeddah, which is the first meeting to take place since the Gaza coup and after Saudi Arabia distanced itself from the recent Palestinian dispute.
Saudi Arabia found it difficult to boycott the Palestinian state ad infinitum especially since it acquired Arab League-backed legitimacy, and lately Hamas, which continued its campaign against Fatah instead of Israel, has toned down its positions since Abbas's visit. Hamas has been sending signals indicating some readiness to repair some of what it had destroyed. Although the overt conciliatory step is not enough, because it does not go as far as returning things back where they were before the coup, it is better than preserving the rift which is fanning a Palestinian war which we expect to flare up and become the second chapter in the Palestinian story.
In my view, it would be wrong to ignore Hamas's signals and statements. These indications are worth testing in a serious manner, lest we reach a practical solution which will heal the rift between the government and the state and restore the demolished system, or at least reach solutions which will halt the deterioration of ties and maybe mutual killing. Should the parties be willing, the first solution should be Hamas's acceptance to return the situation to what it was without having to apologize, bearing in mind that one of its officials had said "we are ready to apologize to the Palestinian people, not to Fatah."
Stepping back from divorce, according to this proposal, means handing over security to the central authority, not the government. Should that be categorically rejected, the second solution should be a federal one, in other words Hamas should recognize Salam Fayyad's government in the West Bank, in exchange of Fatah's recognition of the Hamas government in Gaza. Both should stay under the control of the authority in Ramallah and both governments should remain provisional until the next elections. Should this solution be rejected, then the last option would be holding early elections under international supervision.
There are other options which are better than preserving the current division and tension. It will be a dark phase, never experienced before by the [Palestinian] cause, and the Palestinian people will be the only loser because things will sink as low as mutual killing in the two divided lands with the encouragement of the Israelis who are experiencing a joy they never felt since the 1967 war victory.
All eventual reconciliation cases should be preceded by a condition which is at the heart of the problem. Hamas has got to accept the foundation of the Palestinian state, which is the signed peace agreement. Hamas has entered in a relationship with a political regime based on agreements with Israel and the international community. This regime has been legalized by the Arab regimes. Despite the fact that Hamas had benefited from the agreement, it revoked it from day one, which has caused the confusion suffered by the Palestinian scene. Because of this, the Palestinian people found itself under the siege of international donors, because donations are based on a peace agreement. Hamas wants support and rejects agreement. Moreover, the Palestinian people, by accepting the election process, they approved the foundations of the state and its related agreements. It is a necessity for Hamas to accept the first condition for stepping back from divorce, which consists in abiding by the signed agreements and avoiding the sale of the cause in the auction of the conflicts between the countries of the region, be they Iran of Syria or America, or anyone else.
It is the responsibility of the countries of the region not to push Hamas into a corner, for as long as it is ready for some reconciliation. It is Hamas's responsibility to think in a realistic way. It came to power through the Fatah regime, which is a good regime always enabling the citizens to choose whoever rules over them. As for splitting away with a small state in Gaza, it will make it easier for its enemies, including Israel, to eliminate it, with a wide-ranging Arab support or silence, at a time when the authority in Ramallah will be able to negotiate and sign a historic agreement laying the foundations of the Palestinian state. This will bestow legitimacy on the authority with a level of popularity that Hamas will not be able to cast doubt on.