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Saudis and Egyptians Settle the Issue - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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It is true that the Saudi-Egyptian summit has not received much media attention however, it has settled an extremely important issue. The summit had successfully revived the Arab initiative and considered it a center for Arab action.

The statement that had been issued following King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz and President Hosni Mubarak’s meeting was free of conditions, demands and warnings; nevertheless, it had finalized issues of tumultuous dispute following Hamas’ decision not to commit to any of the treaties previously signed by the Palestinian Authority. These treaties included the Arab Peace Initiative which had been endorsed enthusiastically by all Arab states in the Beirut summit and which was set as the basis for all negotiations with Israel. This treaty had protected Palestinians from the rush of Arab governments to establish ties with Israel and had further set a limit for negotiators.

Although Hamas has not publicly shunned the Arab initiative, it has refused to recognize it. The movement chose an evasive manner to declare that it would not recognize the Arab initiative unless Israel does the same. This is weak, as the initiative had represented Arab and most importantly, Palestinian demands, not Israeli demands. The initiative had called for full withdrawal from Arab territories occupied after the 1967 war with Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, recognition of the Palestinian state and its sovereignty, as well as granting the right of return for Palestinian refugees. It is natural that Israel would refuse the Arab initiative, but for Hamas to reject the plan reflects depreciation and insult to the great efforts that were exerted in the peace initiative. The Arab initiative had incorporated all the demands of Arab parties that had congregated in Beirut and had further received the blessing of the Palestinian delegation. I recall that an Arab delegation had suggested lessening the demands made so that realistically Israel would accept and this would be done by omitting the paragraph concerning the right of return for refugees. This delegation suggested postponing this issue for later negotiations; however, the conferees insisted that all demands remain. It is for this reason that it is disgraceful that Hamas would adopt the same stance of extremist Israeli parties that had rejected the Arab initiative from the moment it was declared and which was attacked by the office of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

If Hamas asserts that it truthfully represents Palestinian people, then it should accept the proposal made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was elected by the same Palestinian people who brought Hamas to power. Abu Mazen suggested that when disputes arise, rather than disagreeing with Hamas, it is better to turn to the Palestinian nation. In this case, the Palestinians should have their say regarding the Arab initiative. If Palestinians accepted the initiative, then it is obligatory for Hamas to commit to it. However, if the Palestinians reject the initiative, then it can no longer be a basis for negotiation. Nevertheless, Hamas had rejected Abbas’ suggested referendum on the pretext that it is a waste of money and effort.

We are facing a strange proposition where either the Palestinian nation is allowed to decide on an important issue or the opinions of the Palestinian people, who should have the final say, are disregarded.

Abu Mazen in fact, had given Hamas the choice to escape the dilemma it currently faces. Hamas, the Palestinian government that suffers from a lack of international aid, which faces the duties of past treaties and faces the Palestinian public that might not agree with all the previous requests, is in big trouble. All the democratic governments of the world resort to the opinion of their citizens when they need to resolve critical decisions, as did European governments before joining the European Union. These governments never once claimed that the referendums that they held were either a waste of time or effort.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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