Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Meet…. Even in Damascus | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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As was expected, Hamas responded to the Fatah request to postpone the meeting that was scheduled to take place on Wednesday in Damascus between the two parties in order to continue to discuss inter-Palestinian reconciliation by saying that this position “reflects Fatah’s lack of seriousness [towards inter-Palestinian reconciliation], and it backtracking from what we agreed upon at the last meeting with regards to the timing and location.”

The reason behind Fatah’s request that the location of this meeting be changed from Damascus to somewhere else was what was revealed by Asharq Al-Awsat a few days ago, namely that a heated argument took place between the Palestinian and Syrian delegations, at the highest levels at the Arab Summit in Sirte. As a result of this, Fatah has decided not to continue inter-Palestinian dialogue in Damascus, and called for its meeting with Hamas to take place in Beirut instead.

The Fatah movement’s position can only be described as a gross tactical error, for the Palestinian Authority is in dire need today of popular Palestinian support for their efforts to complete the peace negotiations [with Israel]. Therefore, the Palestinian Authority should be wading into the most important battle with Netanyahu’s government which has always been evasive with regards to the peace process. Until now, the Palestinian negotiator has been taking reasonable positions, and in fact the actions of the Palestinian president and his latest statements were all good; this is something that has hurt Netanyahu, causing genuine confusion domestically in Israel and externally, whether this is in Europe or America.

Therefore, it was not necessary for Fatah to open itself to became an easy target for Hamas, for when Fatah announces its rejection of completing this dialogue in Damascus, it was well aware that the last thing that the Hamas movement is concerned about is inter-Palestinian reconciliation, and that in any case the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated movement cannot oppose the Syrians or the Iranians. Therefore, if the goal of cutting off the dialogue in Damascus was to record a protest against the Syrians, then Hamas will respond to the Palestinian Authority on behalf of Syria, saying what Damascus wants without any blame being placed upon the Syrians. This is indeed what happened, particularly when the Hamas official spokesman said that “we insist on holding the meeting in the same place as we agreed as we fail to find any justification for their request.”

As a result of this, it would have been better for Fatah to respond to the Syrians via the dialogue with Hamas, for there are no signs that indicate any advancement in the inter-Palestinian reconciliation. It would have been much better to continue dialogue with Hamas – even in Damascus – rather than opening up a new battlefront for the Palestinian Authority. This is because distractions do not help, but in fact harm, and Hamas can now taken an opportunistic attitude towards on issue. It is enough that Hamas tried to defame the Palestinian negotiator, whilst at the same time the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated movement was sending message to the Americans. What is even more interesting is that the Hamas official spokesman criticized Fatah yesterday, whilst at the same time Khalid Mishal was meeting with former US president Jimmy Carter to discuss “the recent developments in the Arab – Israeli situation”

Therefore, when Fatah decided to punish Damascus by changing the location of its meeting with Hamas, in reality it was punishing itself. For as the saying goes, when you are in a hole, stop digging. Hamas represents a genuine obstacle to the Palestinian effort that is seeking to establish a state of Palestine.