A virtual political war has been going on for weeks within Palestinian politics between Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Hamas over a peace plan proposed by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The plan calls for a two-state solution and tacit recognition of Israel along with Israeli withdrawal to 1967 borders. Hamas rejected the proposal out of hand and Abbas upped the ante by calling a national referendum on the plan which he knew in advance he would win.
Now, the Guardian reports that Abbas’ chief negotiator is declaring that Hamas has agreed to the prisoners’ plan:
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee and a lead negotiator on the prisoners’ document, said Hamas had agreed to sections which call for a negotiated and final agreement with Israel to establish a Palestinian state on the territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem.
“Hamas is prepared to accept those parts of the document because they think it is a way to get rid of a lot of its problems with the international community. That’s why it will accept all the document eventually,” he said.
However, there is a additional proposal to form a Palestinian unity government that would incorporate Fatah into the existing Hamas government. Over this there is still haggling:
Mr Abed Rabbo said he expected an agreement in the coming days, but that important differences still had to be settled, particularly over the document’s call for the formation of a national unity government.
He described that as “the major issue that will determine the fate of two nations for decades” because a unity administration, built around a common policy of negotiations with Israel, would be the only way to combat its plans to unilaterally impose its final borders and annex parts of the occupied territories…
Abdullah Abdullah, a Fatah MP and chairman of the parliamentary political committee, said other differences remained over the document, including Fatah’s insistence that the PLO continues to be recognised as the sole representative of the Palestinian people in negotiations with Israel, and that all existing agreements between the PLO and Israel be recognised.
Hard to say at this point whether this is a breakthrough. It may be telling that Hamas itself does not yet appear ready to acknowledge this news. But at least it hasn’t denied or denounced it. This may yet be the beginning of a breakthrough. The hard part will come after an agreement is reached between Fatah and Hamas. Then they will have to sell the deal to the world and convince it both that the two parties can co-exist peacefully with each other politically (not much evidence of that lately); and that Hamas has indeed accepted the provisions of the document calling for recognition of Israel, a two-state solution, and an end to terror within the Green Line. Not to mention that they will have to counter successfully the certain Israeli campaign against recognition and in favor of retaining the PA boycott. I believe the PA can succeed in both of these endeavors, but only with genuine cooperation between the currently warring parties to prove to the world that they’ve turned over a ‘new leaf.’
A number of progressive Israeli commentators express skepticism about the prisoners’ plan and whether it satisfies the international community’s minimum standards for recognition of Hamas as a legitimate government. They focus on the only-partial renunciation of violence (resistance within the Territories continues to be endorsed) and the demand for the Right of Return. Personally, I don’t share their gloom and doom about these provisions. I see the document as an initial negotiating position which will certainly be modified when the two parties get down to serious negotiations. Then the proposals can be reworked so they move closer to a compromise position that Israel might find more acceptable.
But after a week or more of universally gloomy news this appears at least to be a glimmer of hope. It is disappointing that neither Haaretz nor Ynetnews are reporting this story. And it goes without saying that the NY Times is also late to the party.