Exclusive: Fatah and Hamas reach framework accord in three weeks of secret talks
debkafile‘s Middle East sources report that direct covert talks between Palestinian Authority Chairman, the Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal have been going on for three weeks and yielded a five-part framework accord.
The two parties endeavored to keep their channel under cover after Abbas promised President George W. Bush on the first visit he paid the Palestinian Authority on Jan. 10 – and assured Vice President Dick Cheney on March 23 – that he would not hold talks with Hamas. The channel is run by close confidants of the Fatah and Hamas leaders, but during the Arab League Summit on March 29 and 30, Abbas and Meshaal met face to face to confirm the points of agreement achieved thus far.
Both US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert are well aware of Abbas’ underhand track but are keeping it dark to avoid embarrassment, because Bush has branded Hamas a terrorist movement, and Olmert is committed to breaking off peace talks with the PA chairman if he starts a dialogue with Hamas.
Abbas is therefore able to quietly brandish his dialogue with Hamas as a gun for squeezing more concessions from Washington and Jerusalem. However forthcoming, neither can be sure that the benefits granted him will not be used to boost a Palestinian government coalition that Abbas is striving to establish with Hamas.
The jihadist group is withholding massive missile attacks on Sderot and its neighbors to ease the fence-mending process and support Abbas’ tactics – not out of fear of a major Israeli attack, as some have claimed..
debkafile‘s Palestinian sources disclose here the five points of accord they have reached:
1. The Fatah leader will accept a Hamas invitation to visit the Gaza Strip, but only after he is satisfied he has extracted all he can from the US and Israel.
2. A national Palestinian unity government will be set up with ministerial portfolios held neither by Fatah or Hamas politicians but experts.
3. Early presidential elections will be held. Both parties guarantee to abide by the rules laid down in the 2006 charter and accept any results. debkafile‘s sources report that the radical jihadist Hamas has the numbers for a majority and so the means to wrest control of the West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip through the ballot box without firing a shot.
The danger of the West Bank falling into the hands of the missile-wielding, rejectionist Hamas was in the mind of Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee chairman, Tzahi Hanegev, when he commented Saturday: “Once the Israeli army halts its military operations on the West Bank, in no time the West Bank will very fall into Hamas’ hands.”
(Hamas has demanded that Israel give up counter-terror operations on the West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip as the price of an informal lull in its attacks on Israeli communities from Gaza.)
4. Hamas and Fatah will form a Strategic Dialogue Committee, the platform for Abbas to declare an end to Palestinian peace talks with Olmert and foreign minister Tzipi Livni on the grounds that they are unproductive and doomed to failure, while Hamas will cut down – though not abandon – its missile offensive against Israeli civilians as equally pointless.
5. Fatah and Hamas will create a number of joint commissions. The PLO Political Reform panel will regulate Hamas’ integration in the umbrella organization; the Security Services Reform committee will also be concerned with opening ranks to Hamas; Another will campaign against “Jewish expansion” in Jerusalem and Israeli construction projects.
The last two panels will deal with the Palestinian “diaspora” and regulate all negotiations with Israel, setting guidelines and red lines.
Abbas was in Riyadh and Cairo last week to present the outline accord to King Abdullah and Hosni Mubarak.
At the same time, Cairo put before those Arab leaders, the Jordanian monarch, the PA, Hamas and Israel, a proposal for a mixed Arab force to be set up and mandated to police the Gaza Strip and intervene in the event of conflagrations.