The Critical Political Vacuum in Palestine

  • 12 March 2007

It is important that a Palestinian National Unity Government, to be formed as per the “Holy Mecca Accord,” will be established on a sound and clear foundation that could face up to various internal and external challenges, and this can only be achieved through serious and honest deliberations and not through formal and diplomatic gestures. However, it is also important that negotiations concerning government formation are not prolonged, as this may develop a dangerous political vacuum that could adversely affect the Palestinian situation and harm the cause of the “Mecca Accord” itself. If such a vacuum develops, the possibility of conflict and confrontation between Fatah and Hamas would increase, as was recently witnessed in the shooting on a convoy of the Minister of Prisoners’ Affair that caused injuries to one of his escorts, and provoked a gun battle between both parties.

It was thought that a unity government could be formed within a short period after the Mecca accord, and the negotiations will not take more than the stipulated three-week period for it, as the accord was couched in the language of solidarity among Palestinian leaders. However, after the expiry of the period, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) had to extend it for another two weeks and ensuing differences have raised fresh fears in both the Palestinian and Arab quarters over the possibility of a relapse to old hostilities. Many similar instances in the past had given hope of forging an understanding, but did not last in the face of the internal differences. Though the statement by would-be Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh over an agreement by next Wednesday or Thursday, specifically to precede the scheduled commencement of the Arab summit in Riyadh later this month, has raised some optimism among Palestinians and Arabs, it is important to acknowledge events on the ground and not what has been stated or desired.

The Mecca Accord provides a historical opportunity for achieving inter-Palestinian reconciliation, despite the existing challenges. It also provides a framework for initiating prudent steps for resolving differences and transforming them into a positive force and not turning them into a regressive state of inertia that leads to Palestinian bloodshed. For this reason, safeguarding it and exerting all efforts to make it succeed is a responsibility that should be borne by all Palestinian parties, irrespective of their political orientation, in full awareness of the interest of their people and nation.

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