One Year of Hamas: What Now?
The International Crisis Group, whose Middle East division is led by CALME luminary Robert Malley, released a report last week titled “After Mecca: Engaging Hamas.” The report details the status of political developments in the Palestinian territories since Hamas took power one year ago, as well as how things may or may not have changed since Fatah and Hamas finalized the Mecca Accord. In short, the paper argues that it is time for the international community to figure out a way to engage Hamas. Isolating them, the report argues, has only further stalled any measure of progress toward peace and, in fact, increased the internecine violence. Looking at the situation now, the report suggests the following:
The main objective, of course, is to revive the peace process and move toward a two-state solution. Critics of the Mecca Agreement and the national unity government, chiefly the U.S. and Israel, call it an impediment to progress – an odd characterisation considering there was no peace process before Hamas won the elections and no peace process before Fatah agreed to join its government. It is also wrong. Mecca is a prerequisite for a peace process not an obstacle to it. Without a Hamas-Fatah power-sharing agreement and as long as the Islamists feel marginalised, unable to govern and in an existential struggle for survival, there can be no sustainable diplomacy. With sizeable public support, Hamas can deny Abbas the legitimacy required to make difficult concessions. It can launch attacks on Israel to torpedo talks. And in or out of office it can easily prevent a referendum designed to ratify any potential agreement.
If the international community is serious about its proclaimed goals, it will help bring stability to the Palestinians and broker a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire, permit the unity government to govern and press for meaningful negotiations between Abbas and Olmert. It will see Mecca as an opportunity to revive the peace process, rather than as yet another excuse to bury it.
To read the full report, please click here.