The deal initialed by the two rival Palestinian factions, Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah and the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip in Cairo Wednesday, April 27, hailed by the Israeli media as "historic," drew an instantaneous critical response from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: "You can't have peace both with Israel and Hamas," he warned the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. It raises concerns about the Palestinian Authority's weakness and a possible Hamas takeover of Judea and Samaria like the coup it staged in the Gaza Strip, he said. "Hamas aspires to destroy the state of Israel and is quite open about it. Hamas shoots rockets at Israeli cities and our children," he added.
At least three Fatah-Hamas reconciliation pacts have been signed with loud acclaim in the past, only to crash into oblivion. Netanyahu has himself to blame if the latest draft accord which caught him by surprise survives Palestinian fractiousness and actually produces a transitional government and elections a year hence.
This time, the interests of both Palestinian factions are served: It fulfills PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas' ambition to appear before the UN General Assembly in September demanding recognition of Palestinian statehood within the 1967 borders on behalf of a united people. Hamas' political chief Khaled Meshaal is looking for a new address for his Damascus headquarters away from President Bashar Assad's bloody crackdown on dissent.
But the deal struck in Cairo Wednesday was galvanized most of all by Netanyahu's secret track with Washington and Ankara for patching up the Israeli-Turkish quarrel.
debkafile's sources report that in quiet shuttles between the offices of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Netanyahu, unofficial American figures obtained Ankara's consent to postponing the Gaza-bound flotillas due to sail in the coming months. They are now parked on the Israeli leader's doorstep for the quid pro quo demanded by the Turks.
The comment by the Hamas official Abu Marzuk on April 14 about a fresh mediation channel for negotiating the release of the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit was in fact a signal from Ankara that Turkey could be helpful on that sensitive issue as well.
While Netanyahu and his advisers believed that their exchanges with the Turkish government had gone unnoticed behind the sound and fury of the Arab revolt, they missed two intent observers: the new Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Alaraby and Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). The two decided to work together on what they reckoned would be the most effective scheme for pulling the rug from under the US-Turkish-Israeli track which left them out in the cold. It entailed a rapid move for getting Fatah-Hamas reconciliation in the bag before anyone realized what was happening.
To attain this goal, Abbas was pressed into major concessions to Hamas. If the initialed pact is finalized and he eventually delivers on those concessions, his dominant position and that of his Fatah on the West Bank will be seriously compromised, not to mention Israeli security interests.
Its terms provide for the two factions to establish a supreme security council with final authority on matters of security. It would override the Palestinian-Israeli coordinating panel operating under US supervision because neither Washington nor Jerusalem would agree to Hamas oversight, even if only indirect, of their security and undercover activity.
Abu Mazen agreed to a full exchange of prisoners, meaning all the Hamas operatives jailed on the West Bank would go free, especially those captured in the last two years as a result of two years of US-Israel-Palestinian counter-terror operations on the West Bank. Their release will make it harder than ever for Netanyahu to argue that he can't release all the dangerous terrorists Hamas is demanding in return for Gilead Shalit.
Hamas also beat Abbas down on a critical point at issue, that within a year of signing a formal agreement, elections are held for all the Palestinian institutions including the presidency, the legislative council (the Palestinian parliament) and also for PLO institutions.
Hamas will final gain membership of the PLO after being shut out for many years.
Since any Israel-Palestinian peace accord would be with the PLO rather than the Palestinian Authority, the way is opened for the Oslo Interim Peace Accords to be revoked in the same ways as future elections in Egypt would enable a future legislature and administration to revoke the Egyptian peace treaty with Israel.
The draft initialed in Cairo provides for the establishment of a joint transitional government of apolitical technocrats to serve until elections. Ministerial appointments from prime minister down would be subject to the approval of both parties. In other words, Hamas will have veto power over these appointments, which places the continued tenure of the incumbent Prime Minister Salem Fayad in great doubt.
debkafile's intelligence sources report that neither Washington nor Ankara, and especially Jerusalem, had the slightest inkling that a Palestinian accord was in the works or achievable at such high speed. They were all caught napping as a result of overconfidence, the absence of strategic forethought and planning and failed intelligence.
Substantial adjustments will have to be made in the three capitals to prepare for the pictures to be broadcast from Cairo next week of Abbas and Khaled Meshal kissing and embracing with Egyptian Foreign Minister al-Arabi, after affixing their signatures to the final version of their accord.