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Hamas-Fatah Agreement does not meet requirements of the international community

Zondag, Februari 25, 2007

Israel Foreign Ministry, February 25, 2007.

The Hamas-Fatah agreement reached at Mecca does not meet the requirements
set out by the Quartet for any Palestinian government. To the contrary, this
agreement, as well as Hamas’ statements and actions, indicates that Hamas
continues to seek to gain international legitimacy without compromising on its
fundamentalist ideology, including its goal of the destruction of Israel.

It was the clear statements of the Hamas advocating violence, opposing a
two-state solution, and denying the right of Israel to exist, as well as its direct
involvement in terrorism, which prompted the international community to set
out three clear conditions for any Palestinian government to attain legitimacy
and international cooperation. The burden of proof that it has changed is on the
Hamas, a designated terrorist organization. But in fact, as detailed below,
express statements by Hamas leaders following the agreement leave no room
for doubt that there has been no movement by Hamas towards accepting these
foundational principles for peace.

The Quartet has demanded that any Palestinian government must be committed
to these three conditions and that “it should contain no member” who has not
committed to them. Participation in a government, the policy of which is not
based on a commitment to these principles, can clearly not be considered to
satisfy the Quartet’s demand.

There is currently no agreed platform or binding agreement regarding the policy
of a future government. The letter of appointment from Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas included in the Hamas-Fatah agreement invites
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to form a government, but cannot in itself
constitute the political platform of the future government and cannot be
considered to represent fulfilment of any conditions that government is required
to fulfill.

But even were the letter a binding commitment representing the policy of the
new government, it would not meet any of the three fundamental requirements
repeatedly set out by the Quartet: to recognize Israel, to renounce terrorism and
violence, and to accept previous agreements and obligations, including the
Roadmap.

1. Recognition of Israel

The Quartet’s requirements recognize that there can be no hope of a two-state
solution, unless each recognizes the right of the other to a state. Recognition of
the right of Israel to exist is en essential precondition for any Palestinian partner
in peace.

The Hamas-Fatah letter of appointment contains no recognition of the State of
Israel. In fact, the word “Israel” does not appear in the document. Even the
PLO-Israel agreements are referred to merely as “agreements signed by the
PLO”.

The fact that Hamas has not changed its intransigent position on this issue in
the slightest was emphasized by Ismail Haniyeh’s adviser, Ahmed Youssef just
a few days after the conclusion of the agreement:

“The issue of recognition was not addressed at all in Mecca. In the platform of
the new government there will be no sign of recognition (of Israel), regardless
of the pressures the United States and the Quartet would exert.” (Reuters 10
Feb 2007)

Similarly, Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan, emphasized that the agreement
marked no change in Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel:

“The agreement reached at Mecca does not mean recognition of the Israeli
entity… The position of Hamas is firm and well known and it is one of
non-recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity….” (Interview to French
News Agency 9 Feb 2007)

2. Renunciation of terrorism and violence

‘Two states living side by side in peace and security’ can never arise if one side
still advocates the use of terror. For this reason, the Quartet has repeatedly
insisted that any Palestinian government renounce terrorism and violence.

The letter of appointment contains no undertaking to refrain from terrorism and
violence. To the contrary, the letter calls on the new government to commit
itself to the National Conciliation Document. This document, it will be recalled,
explicitly legitimizes the use of violence and terrorism, calling on the parties “to
uphold ‘resistance’ in tandem with political action (Article 3) and “to lead and
engage in resistance against the occupation” (Article 10). Such calls are, of
course, in direct contradiction to Palestinian obligations in previous agreements,
including the Roadmap, which call, inter alia, for an immediate end to “armed
activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere.”

Hamas’ refusal to renounce violence was clearly stated by Hamas’
representative in Lebanon, Usama Hamdan:

“Everyone knows that one of the conditions for recognition of the government
and opening the flow of money to it was to be the end of violence and
resistance. We said the resistance would continue and we have carried out
actions such as capturing the Israeli soldier Shalit, as well as other actions
against the aggressive occupation – Hamas still sees resistance as a strategic
option and will not make any concessions until – if Allah wills it- we shall be
victorious in Palestine.” (Interview on Al-Manar radio station 14 Feb 2007)

In practice too, Hamas has given no indication of any intention to renounce
violence. It continues to hold Gilad Shalit hostage, to smuggle illegal weapons
and explosives into the territories, and to glorify terrorism and violence. In
addition, it has taken no measures to implement Palestinian obligations to
prevent acts of violence by other Palestinian groups, including the firing of
Kassam missiles on Israeli towns and villages. To the contrary, Hamas
government spokesmen have made clear that they support such attacks and
have no intention whatsoever of preventing them.

3. Acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap

The Quartet has repeatedly insisted that any Palestinian government is required
to accept previous Palestinian obligations and agreements, including the
Roadmap. These agreements reflect the result of painstaking negotiations and
compromises by both sides. There can be no value in working to new
agreements with a partner who reneges on previous ones.

The letter of appointment calls on the new government “to respect the
agreements signed by the PLO”, but this falls far short of the Quartet’s
requirement for several reasons:

a. The respect for the agreements is stated to be ‘on the basis’ of the
Palestinian higher national interests and other documents, including the National
Conciliation Document which, as noted above, legitimizes and calls for acts of
terror. A provision which makes respect for the agreements subject to these
other considerations amounts to little more than a willingness to selectively
accept those parts of the agreements which do not contradict Hamas’
longstanding extremist goals.

The fact that the so-called ‘respect’ for agreements has no meaning in practice
was explicitly noted by Khalil Abu Leila, of Hamas’ political bureau. When asked
whether Hamas has committed itself to respecting the PLO agreements, he
replied:

“Only as concerns matters that do not contradict the higher interest of the
Palestinian people. That is important. We as Palestinians can negotiate with the
help of our Arab brethren and say: “Where then is the higher Palestinian
interest? If we can agree, we shall act according to that agreement. I say that
the way of the previous government, based on Palestinian unity, was in the
right direction, for the higher Palestinian interest. If we can find that interest in
the agreements (signed by the PLO) we shall abide by them. But if the interest
lies elsewhere we must get rid of them (the agreements) and return to jihad
(war) with the oppressive Zionist enemy.” (Interview to BBC Arabic Service
16.2.2007, )

b. While the word ‘respect’ seems to indicate a commitment to the agreements,
the insistence of the Hamas leadership on not using the words ‘accept’ or
‘commit’, as required by the Quartet, suggests that they intend to mean
something far less binding. Moussa Abu Marzouk, Deputy Head of Hamas
Political Bureau emphasized the importance of this distinction in the days
following the agreement:

“There were detailed discussions on this issue, regarding the words ‘respect’
and ‘commit’ and it was clear to all that Hamas could not commit to something
which is not included in the political positions it has presented on this issue.
The fact that Abu Mazen accepted the word ‘respect’ in the letter of
appointment made an important contribution to the breakthrough.” (Interview
on Hamas website 17 Feb 2007)

The distinction between the terms ‘respect’ and ‘commit’ is all the more
apparent since, in the same letter of invitation, the word ‘commit’ is used – in
relation to the commitment of the new government to the ‘higher interests’ of
the Palestinian people and to other documents, including the National
Conciliation Document.

Additionally, it will be recalled that the Quartet called for respect not just for
agreements, but also other obligations, “including the Roadmap”, since the
Roadmap is not a formally singed agreement between the parties. The omission
of any reference to the Road Map raises troubling questions as regards the
scope of the provision.

c. Statements by Hamas leaders make it clear that Hamas’ fundamental
opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian agreements remains unaltered. Usama
Hamdan, Hamas’ representative in Lebanon, restated its uncompromising
position:

“All the agreements with the occupation were historic errors because they
implied recognition of the legitimacy of occupation and opposition to further
resistance.” (Interview on Al-Manar Radio station 14 Feb 2007)

d. Hamas’ actions similarly disprove any suggestion that it is prepared to
comply with the provisions of the agreements reached between the PLO and
Israel. These agreements set out obligations, inter alia, requiring the Palestinian
side:

– to take action against all expressions of violence and terrorism (see e.g.
Interim Agreement, Annex I, Article 2; Wye River Memorandum paragraph A;
Roadmap, Phase 1) – to restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning
violent attacks on Israelis anywhere (e.g. Roadmap, Phase 1) – to confiscate all
illegal weapons and ammunition (e.g. Sharm e-Sheikh Memorandum, Para. 8;
Roadmap, Phase 1) – to respect internationally-accepted norms and principles of
human rights (e.g. Interim Agreement, Article XIX) – to foster mutual
understanding, abstain from incitement, and ensure that its education system
contribute to peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples (e.g. Interim
Agreement XXII)

Any suggestion that Hamas respects these agreements contrasts starkly with
its continued smuggling of illegal weapons, its glorification of violence and
terror, its vicious incitement against Israel, and its persistent violation of the
fundamental human rights of the Palestinians it claims to represent.

In conclusion, the evidence indicates that Hamas has not changed, neither in
principle nor in practice, in order to comply with the international community’s
requirements set out by the Quartet, or to acquiesce to the political platform of
a Palestinian government which is committed to these principles. To the
contrary, Hamas’ outright rejection of these requirements was stated clearly by
Khalil Abu Leila, of Hamas’ political bureau, just days after the agreement was
reached:

“I believe that Mecca was a success, because the aim was reached, but as far
as the principles of Hamas are concerned, Hamas maintains its positions for the
higher Palestinian interest. It continues not to agree to surrender and obey the
conditions of the Quartet.” (Interview on BBC Arabic Service 16 Feb 2007)

The conditions set out by the Quartet, which Hamas continues to reject, are not
obstacles to peace, but rather the basic tests by which the international
community can determine whether any Palestinian government is capable of
being a partner in peace. As such, they are not subject to negotiation and
cannot be satisfied by vague formulations or hopeful interpretations.

Were any government which refuses to meet these basic foundational principles
for peace to receive international legitimacy and support, this would be a grave
setback for prospects of peace, and a betrayal of the genuine moderates, on
both sides of the conflict, who truly believe in a two-state solution to the
conflict and seek to make it a reality.

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