Mohammad Salah
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
February 22, 2009 - 1:00am

Postponing the intra-Palestinian dialogue came as no surprise, as all indications have shown that the Palestinians are not yet ready for dialogue. However, the real surprise was when Egypt announced a few weeks ago that the Palestinian factions would embark on dialogue on February 22nd. At that time, dialogue seemed illogical in light of the conflicting interests, clashing positions and different agendas. Also, it was not logical for the "brother enemies" to hold a dialogue before Egypt secures a truce between Israel and Hamas.

As the agreement over the complicated truce faltered, and with the Palestinian factions maintaining their polarizing rhetoric - amidst unchanged positions of influential parties to Palestinian cause and the ongoing disagreements between the camps of truce and defiance - any intra-Palestinian dialogue under these circumstances will only breed further divisions and disagreements. Such a dialogue will not help the Palestinian factions reach common denominators over various dossiers and issues, namely the situation in Gaza, the future of the Strip, the future approach to Israel, as well as the position towards the regional parties to which this or that side is affiliated, not to mention the disagreements between the factions over the reasons of the Israeli aggression on Gaza and the criteria of loss and gain following the war. In brief, the Palestinian arena is not prepared for bringing the Palestinians together and will remain as such until the situation on the Arab arena changes and a real Arab reconciliation is reached.

After all, the Palestinian divisions are a reflection of conflicting Arab agendas and Arab disagreements in turn fueled by the Palestinian divisions. As such, the Arab citizen started asking confusingly: which should come first: Arab solidarity or Palestinian unity?

The regular Arab summit scheduled in Doha in the last week of March will certainly be a pivotal summit. It will either boost the Arab divisions or bring about unity, solidarity and reconciliation. Even though the picture does not herald much optimism, the international and regional circumstances and the dangers threatening the Arab regime all highlight the need for a broad Arab summit attended by influential countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Otherwise, divisions will expand, conflicts will increase, and wounds will deepen.

Arab contacts conducted over the past two weeks between the Arab leaders themselves and between them and foreign leaders who enjoy an influence on the Arab situation in general and the Palestinian one in particular, as well as the Arab disagreements and the positions of the Palestinian sides vis-à-vis the Gaza-reconstruction conference scheduled for March 2nd in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh, will altogether determine the picture of the Doha Summit.

Yet, the summit must tackle other issues which require Arab attention such as the Iranian "tittle-tattle" towards Bahrain, the developments in Sudan, the international tribunal to try the murderers of former Prime Minister Hariri, and the Arab reconciliation. The Palestinian cause does not only determine the relations between the Arabs and Israel, but also the level of relations between the Arab states themselves, not because of the conflicting Arab positions in addressing Israel - whether times of war or peace - but according to the Palestinian factions' relations with the Arab states, especially with the alliances that made some Arab states deal with the Palestinian factions the same way they deal with the Arab states and the Palestinian Authority whose conduct does not ascend to the level of a "faction" at some times. As such, the Arabs appeared to be in need of calm before they meet for dialogue.


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