donderdag 22 maart 2007

Analysis of the Palestinian national unity government

Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S)
March 20, 2007

Analysis of the Palestinian national unity government: its
composition, platform and the implications of its establishment

1. In the late morning hours of March 17, 2007, the Palestinian Legislative
Council held a vote of confidence for the new national unity government and
ratified its establishment, with 83 representatives voting in favor and three
against (two from the PFLP, which is not part of the government, and one
independent). In the evening the government ministers were sworn in by Abu
Mazen, the chairman on the Palestinian Authority, in at a festive ceremony
held simultaneously in Gaza and Ramallah by conference call.

2. In his speech before the Palestinian Legislative Council Abu Mazen appealed
to Israel to return to the negotiating table to achieve a "just peace." He
said that the Palestinians extended their hand to peace and coexistence, and
promised to act to bring about the release of Gilad Shalit, the abducted
Israeli soldier. Ismail Haniya , prime minister of the national unity
government, read out the new government's platform, which clearly reflects
Hamas's ideology: no recognition of the right of the State of Israel to exist,
stubborn adherence to "resistance" (i.e., violence and terrorism) as a
"legitimate right" of the Palestinians, and a demand for the implementation of
the "right to return" (i.e., the destruction of the State of Israel) .

The composition of the government

3. There are 25 ministers in the new government (24 with ministries and one
without portfolio). Twelve of them belong to or are affiliated with Hamas, six
with Fatah, three are independent and four belong to leftist factions.
Although most of the ministers are from or affiliated with Hamas, Fatah and
the leftist factions have a strong bloc. With the exception of Ismail Haniya,
the Hamas representatives are technocrats, some of them previously political
unknowns, while Fatah ministers are old political hands, half of whom belong
to the Palestinian Legislative Council. For an analysis of the composition of
the new government, see Appendix I .
4. Prominent among the new government ministers are three independents who
hold key portfolios, and who have replaced Hamas ministers. Two of them (the
foreign and finance ministers) were chosen, in our assessment, because, as
opposed to their predecessors, they are acceptable to the international
community. For full biographies, see Appendix I .
A. Foreign minister Dr. Ziyad Abu Amro is a native of Gaza , married to an
American woman and has American citizenship. He holds a PhD in political
science and international relations from Georgetown University and is an
independent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He is close to Abu
Mazen and has served as Mazen's liaison with Hamas.
B. Finance minister Salam Fayyad is a native of Tulkarm. He is a financial
expert and holds a PhD in economics from the University of Texas . He is
acceptable to the United States and the international community and has a
reputation for being reliable. In previous governments he managed to stabilize
the PA's budget to a certain extent and to advance important reforms.
C. Interior minister Dr. Hani Talab al-Qawasmi , whose family comes from
Hebron but who was born in Gaza . He served as director of administrative
affairs in the previous interior ministry. He is a devout Muslim and has no
experience in internal security.
The government's platform
5. A number of changes were made in the draft of the government's platform
which was made public at the end of last week. The changes are semantic and
intended to make the government's basic position seem less extreme. However,
despite the rhetorical acrobatics, in the final analysis the platform does not
meet the demands of the Israel and the Quartet , and they reflect the fact
that Abu Mazen and Fatah have almost completely accepted Hamas's basic
ideology and demands (For a full analysis of the platform, see Appendix II ).
6. Conspicuous are the following:
A. The continuation of violence and terrorism is legitimate : According to its
platform, the new Palestinian government will adhere to the "legitimate right"
of Palestinians to continue employing "all forms of resistance." That is, in
its platform there is legitimization for the continuation of all forms of
terrorism against Israel (including suicide bombing attack within Israel)
until all the Palestinians' far-reaching demands have been met. That is in
full accord with Hamas's basic preference for terrorism, although it does not
reject a temporary lull in the fighting. Thus is can be expected that the
Palestinian terrorist organizations, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad,
which is not represented in the Palestinian Legislative Council, will continue
attacking Israel (including suicide bombing attacks) under the aegis of the
national unity government . 1
B. The platform of the national unity government does not include recognition
of the right of the State of Israel to exist, and no mention is made of the
concept of two states for two peoples . 2 It does, however, go into minute
detail as to the Palestinians' far-reaching demands on Israel and the
international community: the release of prisoners, the dismantling of the
security fence, the cessation of the earthworks in Jerusalem , the cessation
of Israeli security force counterterrorist measures and Israel 's withdrawal
from the "Palestinian lands" it conquered. The reworked version of the
government's platform, as opposed to the original version, mentions the
establishment of a Palestinian state on "the lands conquered in 1967" with
Jerusalem as its capital, but it does not state that the establishment of such
a state is the final Palestinian demand. A Palestinian or Muslim Arab reader
will understand that the arrangement is only temporary, and not a permanent
arrangement to end the conflict based on the concept of two states for two
C. The platform includes adherence to the "right to return" and calls for the
implementation of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (December 1948) regarding
the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their lands and property
and to receive reparations. The wording reflects Hamas's position and
interpretation of Resolution 194 as the physical return of the refugees to
their lands, that is, the destruction of the State of Israel as a homeland for
the Jewish people .
D. According to the platform, agreements previously signed by the PLO are to
be "honored" but no commitment is made to implement them : The new government
"honors" the "legitimate decision" and agreements signed by the PLO (in the
spirit of the Mecca Accord). The term used is " honors " but strict avoidance
of a " commitment " to implement them is maintained. In effect, the refusal to
recognize the right of the State of Israel to exist (at the foundation of the
previous agreements) and the justification for continuing terrorism (through
which previous agreements were sabotaged) make the "honoring of agreements" a
phrase devoid of meaning.
E. Limiting Abu Mazen's ability to ratify agreements he and the PLO reached
with Israel : according to the platform of the new government, Abu Mazen and
the PLO have the authority to conduct negotiations for the PA. At the same
time, Hamas and its supporters can sabotage any agreement reached. The
platform states that any agreement must either be ratified and signed by the
"new Palestinian Legislative Council" (which has yet to formed 3) or put to a
referendum of Palestinians living within the PA and abroad. (Hamas can make it
extremely difficult to hold a referendum in the PA, and it can be assumed that
the Palestinian refugees living in the Arab states will oppose any agreement
that does not include the "right to return.")
F. The ratified platform has a section dealing with Jerusalem (apparently
because of the developments following the emergency earthworks carried out at
the Mugrabim ramp): The new government will confront Israeli policy in
Jerusalem , including the issue of the holy places. It will allot funds,
encourage the Palestinians living in Jerusalem to take "a firm stance," and
enlist the Arab-Muslim world to support the residents of Jerusalem politically
and through the media.
The response of the government of Israel
7. On March 18 the government of Israel met to discuss the Palestinian
national unity government and its platform. An examination of the platform
showed that "it does not accept the principles of the international
 community," therefore " Israel will not be able to work with the government
or any of its ministers." However, " Israel will continue to work with Mahmoud
Abbas in order to advance issues of security and issues pertaining to
improving the quality of life of the Palestinian population." The government
also noted that " Israel expects the international community to maintain the
policy it has taken over the past year of isolating the Palestinian government
until it recognizes the three principles of the Quartet."
Summary and assessment
8. The Palestinian national unity government reflects, first and foremost,
Hamas and Fatah's desire (and in fact the desire of the entire Palestinian
population) to put an end to the violence and anarchy which increased during
the past year and to establish a stable, functioning Palestinian government.
To that end Hamas agreed to give up three key government ministries to
independents, and to let Fatah have a series of ministries as well, although
they are less important. In return Hamas received the stamp of approval from
Abu Mazen and Fatah that it had sought since its victory in the January 2006
election. In addition, there is a possibility that the Palestinian government
will break out of its isolation (without Hamas's giving up its control of the
government and its extremist ideology).
9. In addition to achieving the main goals of internal quiet and an end to the
violence and anarchy which plagued the PA for the past year, the Palestinians
seek to market the new national unity government to the international
community. They hope to have the economic and political embargo lifted, even
though the government is influenced by Hamas and its ideology and even though
it has not met the demands of the Quartet, central to which are recognition of
the right of the State of Israel to exist and the abandoning of terrorism.
10. Their efforts to market the new government have taken various forms :
Using convoluted rhetoric in setting out its basic principles, Hamas has tried
to camouflage the new government's extremist nature and give the Western
countries something to hold on to; they have appointed ministers who are not
affiliated with Hamas and who are acceptable to the United States and Europe
to important government posts; 4 they have warned that if the government did
not receive international support the situation was liable to deteriorate and
that the PA and the Palestinian economy would collapse; they have enlisted Abu
Mazen (who continues to call for peace, coexistence and a renewal of
negotiations) to seek international legitimization for the new government and
its platform. Initial international reactions (especially from European
countries such as Norway , France and Britain ) are likely to reinforce
Palestinian expectations that it will be possible to sell the new national
unity government, with its extremist principles, to the international
11. However, the basic differences of opinion between Fatah and Hamas have not
been resolved, and anarchy still exits within the PA. As negotiations for the
establishment of the national unity government were being held, there were
violent confrontations between Fatah and Hamas (although not widespread) until
the last minute (March 17), and signs of anarchy. 5 Thus it can be seen that
the basic tensions between Fatah and Hamas and the difficulties of instituting
law and order in Palestinian society still exist . The power struggles between
Fatah and Hamas have not been clearly won and it can be expected that the
rival sides will continue to seek as great an advantage as possible over one
another within the government despite the Mecca Accord and the establishment
of the national unity government. A list of controversial issues still
remains, such as the future of the Executive Force, control of the security
forces and integrating Hamas into the PLO. They will continue as focal points
of friction between the two sides and may lead to political tensions and even
a renewal of the violence, which will make it difficult for the national unity
government to function.
Note: Appendix I is a profile of the new Palestinian government; view it here
(it is about 4/5th of the web page!)
Appendix II is an analysis and translation of the national unity government
platform; view it here.
1 The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is not represented in the Palestinian
Legislative Council and which did not participate in the elections, is not
committed to supporting the new government and its platform. The PIJ and the
other terrorist organizations can be expected to continue carrying out
terrorist attacks, including rocket and suicide bombing attacks. PIJ spokesman
Daoud Shehab said that his organization had many reservations regarding the
new government's platform, but that the PIJ's position would be examined
primarily according to the governmental support and reinforcement it gave the
"resistance." It is understood that his organization clearly has no intention
of stopping its terrorist attacks (Al-Aqsa TV, March 17). Since the
establishment of the government there have already been a number of attacks
initiated from the Gaza Strip, including rocket attacks and a Hamas sniper
attack at the Dekalim terminal near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, in which an Israeli
civilian was critically wounded.

2 Fathi Hamad, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said the
following in a program broadcast by Al-'Alam, the Iranian Arabic language
channel: " We want Palestine from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan]
river, and if we do not succeed in liberating it now, or in the near future,
with the help of Allah, it will be done. " (Al-'Alam TV, March 18).
3 The "new Palestinian Legislative Council" does not yet exist, and it can
only be formed after agreement has been reached regarding Hamas participation
in the PLO and a change in the PLO's character. The issue of the establishment
of a new PLO in which Hamas will participate has been in the works since the
Cairo Agreement of March 2005, and it can be assumed that it will not happen
in the near future (despite the fact that the platform of the new government
calls for the implementation of the Cairo Agreement to be accelerated so that
in the end, Hamas will be able to take over the PLO ).
4 A Palestinian "government source" told BBC radio in the Gaza Strip that the
new government had decided to send its foreign and finance ministers to the
United States to try to convince Washington to cooperate with t he national
unity government (BBC radio, March 18).
5 On the eve of the new government's swearing in (March 15-16), there were
manifestations of anarchy and clashes between Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza
Strip: the convoy of the director of UNWRA in the Gaza Strip was shot at, the
son of the director of the lands authority was abducted, unknown assailants
killed a military intelligence officer and three Hamas operatives were
abducted by Fatah. On the day the government was sworn in, March 17, there
were new abductions and violent clashes between quarreling clans.

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