Saturday, March 28, 2009

No Option Left

Al Ahram Weekly, March 28, 2009 - The shops owned by Mohamed Abu Kirsh and Sobhi Khalil in Al-Ramal area of Gaza City are only 50 metres away from the mosque they pray in. Despite this, it takes them 20 minutes to make it back to their shops following the noonday prayer due to their debating the likelihood of success for Palestinian national dialogue. Both optimistic Abu Kirsh and pessimistic Khalil fervently hope that the next dialogue session will close with a final agreement that will put an end to the state of division in Palestinian politics.

"If the faction leaders don't succeed in reaching an agreement, they'd better not come back to us, for in my view that would clearly show a lack of responsibility," Abu Kirsh told Al-Ahram Weekly. Khalil holds that all of the points of difference preventing an agreement are marginal in comparison to the threats facing the Palestinian national cause.

The likelihood of the dialogue's success is currently the focal point of burning debate on the Palestinian street, where people are keeping their fingers crossed for an agreement. Although a date has not been set for resuming national dialogue sessions, they are expected to reconvene soon.

An informed Palestinian source told the Weekly that the impressions of Egyptian General Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman during his meetings with American officials were extremely important and would indicate whether the American administration would recognise the new national accord government or not. This source suggested that should Egypt not obtain guarantees that the world would recognise the new government, then Cairo's attempts would be reduced to mere leaps into the air. As the faction leaders prepare to return to Cairo again, they realise that this will be their last chance.

Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) politburo member Ramzi Ribah says that the faction representatives are expected to reach agreements on three primary points of difference they had been unable to concur on during the dialogue sessions that ended late last week. In a statement to the Weekly, Ribah said that the first point of difference concerned the powers of the national body that would run Palestinian affairs until elections are held for the Palestinian National Council (PNC). Ribah said that Hamas insists that this temporary entity has sole responsibility for making important national decisions related to Palestinian affairs. In contrast, Fatah and some other factions hold that this body's powers should not conflict with those of the agencies of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

Ribah says that the second point of difference is related to the electoral system, whereby Hamas wants to continue with the current system that combines proportional and district systems, while Fatah and the other factions want to use only the proportional system. The third point of difference, Ribah says, concerns the programme of the national accord government. Hamas holds that it must be based upon the programme of the national unity government that was formed following the Mecca Agreement, whereby it includes reference to the government "respecting" the agreements signed between the PLO and Israel. Fatah, however, insists that the programme text makes reference to the new government's "commitment" to the signed agreements....

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