Jihad El-khazen
Dar Al Hayat (Opinion)
June 25, 2008 - 5:34pm

President Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Meshaal have at least one point in common. They do not want reconciliation to be solely restricted to Fatah and Hamas. Instead, they seek a Palestinian reconciliation with the participation of all Palestinian sides and an Arab blessing.
A few days ago, I conveyed the stance of Hamas' politburo chief following the meeting we had in Damascus. Today, I will report some of what I heard Abu Mazen say during the dinner we had the following day in Amman. The dinner was hosted by Palestinian Ambassador Atallah Khairi and attended by a number of the President's aides and other friends, including Basel Akl and Nabil Abu Rudaina.
Abu Mazen denied any consultations prior to launching the reconciliation initiative. The PLO's Executive Committee met for three days and agreed on the formula it announced. Condoleezza Rice called the next day to ask him about it; he read the initiative text to her. Then the State Department voiced its support for the initiative.
The Palestinian President does not want any bilateral dialogue with Khaled Meshaal. Nor does he want a dialogue solely restricted to Fatah and Hamas. He rather asks for an Arab sponsorship under the aegis of the Arab League. According to him, "all the cards are in Amro Moussa's hand."
Abu Mazen repeated the word "great" when describing the National Authority's - and his - relationship with Arab leaders. I met him on his arrival to Amman coming from Kuwait, where he met with Prince Sheikh Sabah el Ahmad. He said that Kuwait supported his stance and thanked the Kuwaiti people, government and Prince. He added that he sensed the same full support during his meetings with President Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, King Abdullah II and others.
He assured that there were no Arab pressures to stop negotiations with Israel. He explained what had or had not been achieved so far in his talks with Ehud Olmert.
I told him that he had met with the Israeli PM dozens of times but to no avail. They must have gone over the bones of contention again and again. It's as if the negotiations are undertaken for the mere sake of negotiating and not in view of reaching any results.
Abu Mazen said that he had not closed any file in the negotiations. All files are open, from Jerusalem to settlements and refugees. However, negotiations do not only deal with core issues; there are dozens of day-to-day matters, from ongoing settlement to checkpoints. For example, he evoked the authority's demand for a second mobile phone license and Israel's ongoing stalling, even though the license will provide the authority with an additional $350 million at a time when its monthly budget consumes $220 million.
I asked Abu Mazen: "What will happen next?" He said negotiations face three possibilities: either they fail, achieve something or achieve everything. If he reaches an agreement with Olmert's government, he will put it, as he said, to popular referendum. If he makes some progress, he will continue the negotiations with the support of the upcoming US Administration. If negotiations fail, he will announce the failure and explain its reasons.
Abu Mazen informed Olmert that he would still deal with him as Israel's PM, regardless of the investigation into the corruption charges filed against him. The investigation could end with an accusation, an indictment and the fall of the government. The Palestinian President supports the indirect negotiations between Syria and Israel and has even informed Olmert and Bush of his opinion.
A few days before my meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas, I called him while he was in his car on his way back from Amman to Ramallah and agreed on the following promise. Even though the phone call was short, Abu Mazen highlighted the importance of a truce, the need to pursue it and the efforts required to perpetuate it as a means to end the agony of the Palestinians in Gaza Strip. When we met, the truce has been already put in place with Abu Mazen stressing on the importance of preserving it. He said that the border crossings would gradually open and specifically mentioned four of them: Karm Abu Salem and Erez for people, in addition to Sofa and Karni for goods. As for the Rafah border crossing, it will be opened as per the 2005 agreement. Prisoner Gilad Shalit issue is kept separate from the reached truce.
In the long conversation we had, Abu Mazen seemed self-confident and ready for any confrontation. He repeated that he had full support from Arab countries, including Syria, as well as from the US and EU. He assured that he took his decisions by himself. Had he been doing what the Americans wanted, he would have stayed away from the Damascus Summit, which adopted the reconciliation initiative as he presented it.
Confident as he is in his right stances and independent decisions, Abu Mazen does not necessarily expect a breakthrough in the peace process. He is merely doing what he thinks he is supposed to do. As for the result, nobody knows it. While bidding him goodbye at midnight, he reminded me of a proverb that I first heard from him: "I washed him, but I cannot guarantee he is going to heaven." He never says that he guarantees peace.


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