After months of intense diplomatic efforts reconciliation between the two biggest Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, remains elusive. Egypt, the convenor, and the Palestinian Authority (PA), both lay the blame on Hamas for their failure to reach an agreement. Cairo says that Hamas has refused to sign the reconciliation paper because minor adjustments have been added after the final deliberations. Hamas, however, says that the changes contradict what had been agreed upon in the last round of talks between the two parties, so it cannot accept them.
Munir Shafiq, a well known Palestinian writer, gave an example of the serious impact of the words that were deleted from the paper, notably "reconfiguration", from the sentence "reconfiguration of the security agencies"; the new sentence reads, "the restoration of security agencies". The difference between the two sentences has significant and serious connotations. According to the original draft, rebuilding the security services means the re-establishment and rehabilitation of the security agencies in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The surreptitious amendments implied the reinstatement of the "Preventive Security Agency", which is dominated by Fatah leaders, in Gaza only. Ultimately, the application of such proposals runs the risk of a return to the bloody clashes that took place between Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip in July 2007.
Shafiq responded to the Egyptian government and the PA, who both claimed that the deleted words were minor changes, by asking them to reinstate the original wording and put an end to the dispute. "Why insist on the deletion of worthless words (if they are indeed "minor"), why not put them back and end the dispute?" asked Shafiq.
This casts doubts on the motives of the Egyptian government and the PA. It also raises other questions such as whether Egypt is genuinely committed to reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and are the Egyptians really in control of Palestinian reconciliation efforts or they are acting as proxies for external players whose sole purpose is to perpetuate internal Palestinian division?
Sources close to the negotiations have recently revealed that there is considerable American pressure on Egypt not to push for a final agreement. It seems that the Americans are promoting an Israeli policy intended to weaken the Palestinians and pressurize Hamas to respond to Israel's demands. The same sources emphasized that Washington had threatened to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority if an agreement with Hamas is actually reached.
Washington's involvement in the Middle East peace process has exposed its inability to act as an honest broker for peace. After stipulating that there must be a freeze of Israeli settlements the current administration has adopted the Israeli position that there is no need for any preconditions to resume negotiations. Hence the US is now exerting pressure on the PA to accept a temporary halt to settlement construction for a period that does not exceed nine months.
Meanwhile, Washington refuses to consider calls by some European Union members and even some Israeli leaders to talk to Hamas. The US condition for such talks is that Hamas must recognise the state of Israel and accept all agreements signed between Ramallah and Tel Aviv. While imposing preconditions for dialogue with Hamas, the US demands that the PA goes ahead with negotiations with Israel without any preconditions. This contradiction reinforces the perception that the Americans are not serious about achieving a just and comprehensive peace, and they are quite content to play the role of a functional operative on behalf of Israel in its conflict with the Arabs and the Palestinians.
The US is, first and foremost, interested in Israel's security; it could not care less about the siege imposed on millions in Gaza and the West Bank or the crimes committed against defenceless women and children every day at the hands of the Israeli army and settlers. If, for whatever reasons, it chooses to intervene, one thing is certain; it will not do so in the interests of the Palestinians, as occurred with the proposed prisoner exchange deal. For them, the freedom of a single captured Israeli soldier is far more important than that of thousands of Palestinian detainees in the Occupier's jails. So I ask in all sincerity, who is hindering the process of Palestinian reconciliation?
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.