Saudi-brokered PA unity deal signals failure of effort to isolate Hamas government
Published: 02.11.07, 12:14 / Israel Opinion
Just a little over a year has elapsed since Hamas won the elections for the Palestinian parliament.
Despite the economic and diplomatic embargo the world imposed on the Palestinian cabinet, despite its isolation in the official Arab world, despite the growing poverty and the raging violence and despite the suffering of the Palestinian people Hamas did not give in to the demands of the international community; it did not fold or surrender.
The contrary is true: The extremist terror movement's leadership knew how to conduct itself artfully when necessary, and with brutal decisiveness when required. It correctly evaluated Fatah's limitations and its leaders' helplessness. It ignored Mahmoud Abbas' empty threats and Egypt's overt pressure.
It maneuvered between words and bloodshed, and now with the signing of the Mecca Agreement, it is celebrating its final victory: Mecca paved the way to international legitimacy of the Hamas organization as an elected democratic representative of the Palestinian people. Hamas got what it wanted without having to relinquish any of its principles and beliefs.
This Hamas achievement was granted by the Saudi leadership. After all the Mecca Agreement is the result of a Saudi dictate that tends to favor Hamas by some 85 percent. A unity government wasn't established in Mecca, but rather, a government under Saudi patronage.
Extremist movements are not interested in governing alone. They need a broader political framework that would enable them to hold the reigns of power without drawing the attention of the civilized world, which is interested in being misled. Even the new Palestinian unity government will serve as a camouflage for Hamas.
And if the international blockade is not lifted quite yet, it won't be such a bad thing. The Saudi benefactor and its allies can funnel the Palestinian protectorate aid amounting to USD three billion every year without butting an eyelid. Their oil revenues last year totaled some USD 480 billion.
The new government's letter of appointment, as dictated to Abbas, does not mention Israel and there is no commitment to abide by or apply former agreements signed by previous Palestinian governments and/or the PLO, but rather, only to "recognize" them. Hamas has not shown any flexibility whatsoever.
Olmert government erred
From Israel's point of view, the Mecca Agreement is a worrisome development. The battle to hinder Hamas from gaining the world's acceptance may end in defeat. Because let's not delude ourselves: The US would not be able to reject an intra-Palestinian compromise agreement led by the Saudi king.
American interests are stronger: Saudi Arabia is the third-largest supplier of oil to the US (14 percent.) Saudi Arabia and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, under its auspices, have accumulated foreign currency reserves of USD 1,000 billion, primarily invested in dollar bonds.
According to an announcement made by the Saudi government, in the coming years it is set to invest USD 650 billion in developing its country's infrastructure: Oil and gas drills, power stations, ports, airports, communication networks, underwater pipe systems, desalination facilities, refineries, schools and universities. Each of these massive projects can either be opened or closed to American companies.
And Finally, Saudi Arabia is presenting itself as an ally and a bridge between the US and the Middle East; it indiscriminately purchases American weapons and is inundated with American advisors.
Due to the above, no level-headed administration in Washington would dare reject the Mecca Agreement the Saudi king is so proud of, whatever the heads of the administration may think of it.
The Olmert government erred in its approach to Hamas when it blindly believed in an economic-diplomatic siege. A siege is a passive act that only encourages resilience. Israel should have opted for an active policy, yet the Olmert administration didn't take advantage of the opportunity when Abbas almost begged for it it also didn't take advantage of the opportunity to engage in decisive peace dialogue with the Saudis when they first made such a proposal.
The result is that the Mecca Agreement will establish an emboldened Hamas government that would dance to the tune played by Khaled Mashaal and composed in Riyadh.