So That 'Sana'a Declaration' Does Not Fail

  • 25 March 2008

Undoubtedly, the step for signing the "Sana'a declaration" is seen as an important development in restoring relations between Fatah and Hamas, especially as Fatah has accepted resumption of dialogue with Hamas. The breakthrough is significant as President Mahmoud Abbas had until recently been insisting that there could be no dialogue with those-whom he called "putschists"-and had placed the condition that dialogue could only resume if Hamas relinquished its control of the Gaza Strip. The declaration reflects a conspicuous desire on both sides to reach an agreement, with Hamas accepting the proposal for fresh and early elections in the Palestinian Territories in exchange for Fatah's acceptance of the pre-July 2007 situation for the whole of Palestinian Territories, and not just Gaza Strip. This would mean that the caretaker government of Salam Fayyad be dissolved and an agreement reached on forming a new national unity government. This would also entail the cancellation of several presidential decrees, the release of Hamas detainees, the reactivation of suspended institutions, mechanisms and decisions. Informed sources reveal that the text of the declaration was amended with the removal the phrase "Hamas coup against the Palestinian Authority (PA)," so that the document could call for "resuming dialogue to restore the Palestinian situation as it was before the events in Gaza," in affirmation of the unity of the Palestinian homeland in terms of territory, people and one authority.

Despite the importance of the "Sana'a declaration" there are several problems that could impede its implementation. These problems have come to light immediately after the declaration, when differences arose over the interpretation of the declaration, with Hamas considering it a good framework for resuming national dialogue, and not as precursor to it, while President Mahmoud Abbas insisting, in a statement read out by his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaynah, that resumption of dialogue would begin only after the implementation of all the clauses of the agreement (also known as the 'Yemeni Initiative'). He said that the agreement should not be seen as a framework for resumption of dialogue as that would not deliver results.

Indubitably, obstacles confronting the implementation of the "Sana'a Declaration" could lead to its failure, as has happened with several similar initiatives in the past. To avoid such a fate, certain basic conditions would have to be fulfilled. Firstly, it would be important to have a level of trust between Hamas and Fatah. This cannot happen unless both parties accept and acknowledge the legitimacy of the other. Secondly, sustained dialogue between the two sides would have to resume for reaching an agreement on the differences. Third, each party should realize the importance of making concessions because the insistence of each party on meeting its demands would result in the failure of dialogue. The Palestinian national interest should surpass the interests of each party, as well as foreign connections. Fourthly, upcoming Arab summit should support the agreement because it would give impetus to efforts of reconciliation between the two sides.