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Did Washington lift the veto on Palestinian reconciliation?

September 30, 2017 at 7:53 am

By Nour Abu Aisha and Mohamed Majed

Palestinian political analysts agree that the United States has lifted the ban it had imposed on achieving Palestinian reconciliation.

The position is based on extensive evidence, most notably the statement issued on Thursday by the International Quartet on the Middle East, made up of the US, Russia, the EU and the UN. The statement welcomed the reconciliation efforts and did not attack Hamas as it usually does.

In the statement, the Quartet’s envoys said it supports the efforts “to create the conditions for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to assume its responsibilities in Gaza.”

The statement, a copy of which was obtained by the Anadolu Agency, urged the parties to “take concrete steps to reunite Gaza and the West Bank under the legitimate Palestinian Authority.”

Acting out of character, the Quartet refrained from criticising Hamas.

In an interview with Anadolu published on Thursday, Mousa Abu Marzouk, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said that the US had lifted the ban it previously imposed on achieving reconciliation.

Read: Hamas and the difficult questions

In response to a question regarding his source of information in this regard, Abu Marzouk said: “We received information from their sources and other information from Western diplomats confirming that the US lifted the veto on the Palestinian reconciliation. American news reports also mentioned that there has been a shift in the American administration’s policy.”

 Political analyst Talal Okel, who writes for Palestine’s Al-Ayyam newspaper, believes that “the events taking place in the Palestinian arena and the statements made by international representatives regarding the Palestinian reconciliation suggest that the US has indeed lifted its veto on this issue.”

The timing of lifting the veto on the reconciliation coincides with the general shift of American policy for the region, which is moving towards activating the regional peace process, according to “an unclear vision”, Okel said.

Okel also noted that the Quartet’s statement was issued at Washington’s request, after a long absence from the Palestinian arena, in order to strengthen the position suggesting that “the whole international community is demanding reconciliation and is ready to support it.”

“This statement is also a part of the international Quartet’s adoption and support for the US’ move towards a regional settlement,” said Okel. He added: “Through its support for the reconciliation efforts, the Quartet is aiming to remove the obstacles hindering the PA, participate in the political activity and deal positively with it.”

US President Donald Trump (L) is welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in Tel Aviv on May 22, 2017 [Daniel Bar On/Anadolu Agency]

Okel believes that the Quartet refrained from criticising Hamas or describing it as a terrorist organisation in order for its efforts to successfully reinforce the reconciliation and to add credibility to its position.

He noted that the Quartet is accepting Hamas as being involved with the PA, which will re-establish its control over Gaza. This is especially true as Hamas is not opposed to this step and will not have sole control of Gaza.

“Hamas has made the concessions it needs to eliminate any excuses and to establish good will needed to facilitate any reconciliation. It has also shown great flexibility thus easing the work of the government,” said Okel.

Read more: Palestinians must reject any conference that brings Arabs together with Zionists

Political analyst Mustafa Ibrahim agreed with Okel. Saying that “the indicators on the ground suggest an international consensus regarding the success of the Palestinian reconciliation.”

He added, “The behaviour of America and the international envoys for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, along with the statement by Abu Marzouk, all indicate that the US lifted the veto and gave the green light to achieve the reconciliation.”

Ibrahim believes that the statement by the Quartet reinforces the idea of lifting the veto on the reconciliation and giving the green light for its success.

“The international climate and the settlements taking place in the region or at the international level, have all contributed to the achievement of this reconciliation,” he said.

The Quartet, says Ibrahim, remains a component of the international community and represents its overall position.

He also stated that Israel seems to be welcoming of the rapprochement between Egypt and Hamas, as it removes the spectre of a military confrontation in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli press reported that they are satisfied with the rapprochement between Hamas and Egypt and consider the process of cooling the Gaza Strip front important for Israel at a time when the tension on the northern border [the border with Lebanon and Syria] is growing

said Ibrahim.

He believes that the success of the Palestinian reconciliation will delay the occurrence of any military operation in the Gaza Strip.

The political analyst predicts that the US administration has played a role in progressing the reconciliation issue, noting that the UN’s announcement of the establishment of a fund to support the reconciliation government’s assuming of its tasks in Gaza confirms this.

During his visit to the Gaza Strip on Monday, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov said that the UN would work to establish a fund to support the government’s takeover of Gaza.

In the same context, the Palestinian writer and academic Asaad Abu Sharkh has agreed with his colleagues regarding the presence of international approval for the success of a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

In an interview with Anadolu, Abu Sharkh said he believes that the international parties that intervened in order to end the division have consulted with Israel.

“Israel is interested in the reconciliation (…) it does not want violence or wars at this point in time and wants to focus its efforts outside of Palestine,” he said.

He believes that the Quartet is supporting the reconciliation in order to “reduce the role of the resistance and to rein in the armed organisations.”

UNIFIL peacekeeper at the Lebanon-Israel border town of Adaisseh

UNIFIL peacekeeper at the Lebanon-Israel border town of Adaisseh

Abu Sharkh also notes that this will be impossible for the factions, but it is possible to “reach a long-term truce with Israel by means of diplomatic action involving the Quartet.”

According to Abu Sharkh, the international parties want to deal with the PA as the sole party, with Hamas under its wing.

“The peace process failed miserably and Israel and America do not recognise or authorise the two-state solution. In order to avoid this, these parties see reconciliation and unity as a solution,” he added.

In the eyes of the international parties, says Abu Sharkh, the reconciliation will control the area and ward off wars.

On 17 September, the Hamas movement announced the dissolution of the administrative committee formed in the Gaza Strip to manage government institutions. This move was in response to Egyptian efforts to achieve a Palestinian reconciliation and end the division.

In a statement issued by Hamas at the time, the movement invited the consensus government to immediately assume its responsibilities in the Gaza Strip.

Read: Hamas has good intention on reconciliation, says senior Fatah official

The dissolution of the committee was carried out in the context of efforts by Egypt recently to achieve a Palestinian reconciliation and end the division since mid-2007. These efforts were made during the visit of Hamas and Fatah delegations to Cairo.

The Palestinian government announced on Tuesday that it will head to Gaza on Monday and hold its weekly meeting there. It also stated that it will begin assuming its responsibilities and tasks there.

This article first appeared in Arabic in the Anadolu Agency on 29 September 2017

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.