Saturday, April 30, 2011

The New Middle East

by Khaled Abu Toameh

In the new Middle East, the radicals seem to be winning.

In this new Middle East, Egypt also seems to be moving closer to Iran, raising serious fears in most Gulf countries. For now, it looks as if the new Middle East, which is taking shape in front of everyone's eyes, belongs to Iran and its pawns.

Hamas has finally won recognition as a legitimate authority and player in the Palestinian arena.

Hamas has every reason to celebrate: the unity deal with Fatah is an admission of the failure of US-led efforts to isolate and undermine the Islamist movement.

Thanks to Egypt's new rulers, Hamas is finally being rewarded for its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.

The Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas will allow the Islamist movement to become part of a new interim unity government that would prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Hamas, according to the accord, would also be permitted to maintain its security and civilian control over 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

Moreover, the agreement does not set conditions for Hamas's participation in the Palestinian government. Hamas is not even required to accept the Oslo Accords, recognize Israel's right to exist or renounce violence, as previously demanded by the Americans and Europeans.

The same mistake that was made in the 2006 parliamentary election is now being repeated once again.

Then, Hamas was allowed to take part in the election unconditionally. The result was that Hamas won the vote, much to the surprise and dismay of the Americans and Europeans.

Ten years earlier, in 1996, Hamas boycotted the same parliamentary vote because, its leaders argued, it was being held under the umbrella of the Oslo Accords, which the Islamist movement does not recognize.

The international community did finally set conditions for dealing with Hamas, but only the day after it had won the election and when it was already too late.

Now Hamas leaders have every right to smile all the way to a unity government with Fatah.

Hamas is not being asked to make any concessions in return for joining a new Palestinian government. As Hamas's Mahmoud Zahar declared, the new government would not conduct peace talks with Israel or recognize the Jewish state.

The release of hundreds of Hamas detainees from Fatah-controlled jails in the West Bank will only boost the Islamist movement's standing in that area. Hamas's chances of scoring another victory in the new elections, which are supposed to take place in a year, now appear to be much higher.

In the eyes of many Palestinians, the unity deal means that Fatah has moved closer to Hamas and not vice versa. Under pressure from Egypt's new rulers, who have displayed more sympathy toward Hamas than the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak, Fatah is being forced to accept Hamas as an equal partner in governing the Palestinians.


Khaled Abu Toameh

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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