Thursday, April 24, 2014

The "Shati reconciliation agreement" – a quick evaluation

The PLO and Hamas signed yesterday an agreement to end the split in a festive ceremony in Gaza but it is too early to determine that indeed the two pillars of the Palestinian polity really reached a real agreement. The doubts are already heard in the two sides- already in the press conference Mussa Abu Marzuq, Mash'al's deputy, said that the agreement is "formality" and the two sides bypassed the discussion on the political agenda that is left to the talks on the government composition. This is crucial point- will Hamas renounce the "resistance"? Will Fatah return to "resistance"? This is the bottom-line and the source for doubts. From this emanates practical questions- will the PLO end the security cooperation with Israel? The answer is no- it is obvious that the cooperation will continue – and this cooperation is directed against Hamas.
Having said that- we don’t exclude an agreement that will lead to the establishment of an "accord government" – but this possible government will lead to nowhere – and we have already seen an agreement of unity government reached in Mecca- that collapsed in the Hamas bloody takeover. Without agreement on political agenda there is no meaning to have formal government, but we still doubt whether they shall even reach the stage of having a government.
Although the parties declared that the agreement only re-confirmed the old Doha and Cairo agreements that were not respected- the Shati agreement is different in two basic points- while Doha agreement was all about preparing for new elections and specified that the government will be established only after a date for elections will be fixed and the sole mission of the government would have been only to prepare for these elections, the Shati agreement is different by nature: it is not "an elections" government but "accord government" and its mission is not elections and no date for elections is specified. So, once such an "accord government" is established- it may stay for long time without running elections.
Another point of difference is the identity of future prime minister. While the Doha agreement specified Abu Mazen as the prime minister, the Shati agreement left it open and hints were spread that "we cannot impose on Abu Mazen too many duties". Palestinian sources in Ramallah told us that the candidate for prime ministry post is Nasser Shaer, a Hamas figure from Nablus. If indeed he will be the leading candidate- and it is by far too early to confirm – it may pave the way for Khaled Mash'al to run for president in the West Bank — but in this stage it is by far immature.
Why the parties decided to launch this reconciliation initiative now? There is an accumulation of developments. The bad conditions in Gaza are a known fact that needs no elaboration. But also the situation in Ramallah is not brilliant. Abu Mazen looks for a way out of the Kerry initiative grip and without peace process the donations from the west are not secured. Although he looked for ways to extend the negotiations—and they still might well be extended – the mood of Fatah's top echelons was very negative during last week. Actually, he postponed several times the Fatah Central Committee session fearing that they would have blown the entire extension efforts.
This radical mood in Fatah top echelons is expected to lead the atmosphere in Saturday PLO Central Committee session but we shall analyze it after they conclude the sessions.
After the Shati agreements were signed- there were manifestations of joy in both Ramallah and Gaza among the ordinary citizens, but after surfing in the facebook pages we got the impression that most of all the ordinary Palestinian is basically concerned with his economic conditions and hence the agreement will be judged if it will lead to relief in the "siege" in Gaza and the resumption of salaries to old Fatah personnel in Gaza and of course securing the flow of money to pay salaries in the West Bank administration.
Here it is the role of Qatar to supply the "safety belt" of 100 $ monthly – and other promises such as financing the Jerusalem needs. There are reports that acutely Qatar is behind the reconciliation- in the Kuwait summit they conditioned the "safety net" in the reconciliation. Now, after they promised Saudi Arabia to stop financing "Muslim Brothers" they can say that the continuation of supporting Hamas will be henceforth in its capacity as Moslem Brothers movement- but part of unity government.

Sum up- the Shati agreement is initial and there is still long way to go. It will be judged in the economic fruits yielded to the ordinary Palestinian. Qatar seems as the party that has triggered it and it is its role now to guarantee the safety net for the economic success that is the core factor now to keep the agreement moving ahead.