Abdullah Iskandar
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
March 15, 2009 - 12:00am

Save for an unexpected surprise, the Palestinian dialogue in Cairo, under Egyptian sponsorship, is still marking its time. Such a dialogue would not have been possible had it not been for a series of Arab pressures on its parties, as well as for the Hamas movement's need to maintain bridges of communication with Egypt, especially after the broad and decisive international and Arab support of Egypt's efforts to resolve the Palestinian issue, both in terms of politics and of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.

Perhaps the usefulness of such dialogue, which is still undergoing a Caesarean section, lies simply in the Palestinians meeting face to face, after a period of separation and a political and military confrontation, in checking rivalries, which prevents renewed confrontations between them, at least for now, and in waiting for the passing of the decisive Arab Summit to be held at the end of the month in Doha. Indeed, the Arab desire expressed at the quadripartite summit in Riyadh by their support for the Palestinian reconciliation reflects at the same time the desire for the Doha Summit to be successful. It is true that such a desire differs in its motives between one Arab country and another, but it ultimately turned into pressure on the Palestinian parties to overcome the great chasm after the Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip, as well as the exchange of allegations and accusations of treason between Arabs that came with it, and an escalation that nearly destroyed the thin line that still connects the members of the Arab League.

Maintaining the Palestinian dialogue is an expression of this Arab desire which was set in motion by Saudi Arabia's reconciliation initiative. However, at the same time, such a dialogue still lacks the Palestinian parties' own elements to take advantage of the climate of appeasement on the Arab scene, especially in terms of the goals sought-after from this dialogue. Indeed, it seems that neither of the two main parties in the dialogue, Fatah and Hamas, has managed to overcome the impact of rivalries and clashes so as to form a new perspective on the Palestinian situation, after the Israeli offensive against Gaza and the extremist right-wing government in Israel, and after the assertion by the international community, and the US in particular, of the necessity of the two-state solution. This new political situation will not reflect positively on the Palestinians' efforts to establish an independent state, as long as the Palestinians' own elements for establishing such a state are not available, especially when it comes to managing the negotiations.

As for the reality of the dialogue in Cairo, it is still far from forming such a perspective. In fact, it remains at the level of the disagreement that led to the outbreak of violence in the Gaza Strip and ultimately to Hamas imposing its control over it by force of arms, and what this has entailed in terms of damage to the project of a Palestinian state.

The Palestinian disagreement over the nature of the next government, the political authority of reference, and the way it should reflect on the program of such a government, in addition to the issue of the security apparatus and its arrests, will remain ongoing as long as the Palestinians fail to form the conviction that the new situation which they will face will differ from what it had been in the past, when they quarreled and fought each other. Such a conviction, even if the Egyptian midwife manages to conclude the Caesarean section with some kind of formula, would restore formal unity to the Palestinian seat at the Doha Summit. Indeed, the quarrels will return to the forefront the day after the summit, the tragedies of the siege will be repeated, and an attempt will be made once again to turn the Gaza Strip into a source of concern and pressure on Egypt, which would bring inter-Arab disagreements back to square one.


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