Asharq Al-Awsat- Informed Palestinian sources have stated to Asharq Al Awsat that the Egyptian government presented to the Palestinian factions taking part in the “national dialogue” a document containing a plan to set up a “non-factional government.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian and Egyptian sources affirmed that Dr Musa Abu-Marzuq, a prominent Hamas leader and negotiator, returned to Egypt following a brief secret visit to the Palestinian City of Rafah to see his family after an absence of 30 years. The sources said that the visit took place under a very high level of security coordination, but denied that it indicates an imminent prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel.
Dr Salih Ra’fat, secretary general of the Palestinian Democratic Union, FIDA, underlined the need to give priority to the formation of a transitional government that will undertake the reconstruction task in the Gaza Strip and oversee the Palestinian side of the crossings in order to frustrate Israel’s pretexts to continue its blockade of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Ra’fat said: “Egyptian officials proposed that a non-factional government be set up, consisting of independent national figures, to prepare for elections and rebuild the security agencies on a professional basis. We support this idea, but Hamas does not. They demand a government modeled on the one that was formed under the Mecca agreement.”
He added: “We envisage a transitional government made up of independent figures and committed to the national programme, or a government including politicians, but not on the basis of quotas given to political organizations. It should be a small government functioning for a period not exceeding January 2010 in order to prepare for legislative and presidential elections.”
He explained that the main task of such a government will be to unify the institutions of the Palestinian [National] Authority in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, embark on reconstruction in coordination with the donor nations, oversee the crossings, undertake governmental responsibilities under the basic law, and prepare for elections.
Ra’fat said: “The launching of the inter-Palestinian dialogue is a first step towards ending the division and restoring Palestinian unity. Agreement has been reached to set up committees, which will commence their work on the 10th of this month. They are supposed to complete their work according to plan, that is, by the end of March or before.”
Salih Ra’fat was asked on the PLO program and whether it will be accepted by the other factions that will join the organization, especially Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Answering the question, he said: “I followed with interest Hamas Political Bureau chief Khalid Mishal’s interviews with the press. In all his interviews, he asserted the two-state solution, which is the PLO program. Accordingly, I hold the view that Hamas practically adopted the two-state solution.”
He added: “What was previously known as the plan of Dr Ahmad Yusuf, the prominent leading figure in Hamas, to establish a Palestinian state with temporary borders in agreement with the Israelis and the Swiss, falls much short of the PLO ideas. Therefore, it will be only natural for those who join the PLO to accept its program and basic system.”
For his part, Khalid al-Batsh, a prominent leading figure in the Islamic Jihad, asserted that his movement accepts the formation of a national accord government in agreement with all Palestinian factions, but it maintains its stand on not joining any future governments, be they temporary or permanent. Explaining the reason, he said: “We reject the Oslo Agreement as un umbrella for any Palestinian political authority.”
In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Batsh said: “If this umbrella and this reference point for the authority and governments change, then we may agree to join the government. However, our non-participation does not mean that we are not interested. We are interested in a quickly-formed government that will end the division and assume all its tasks.”
Answering a question whether there are obstacles facing the five committees, Al-Batsh said: “I believe that the mechanisms, which have been devised for the committees’ task, will allow no one to block the committees’ work. Each committee will include representatives of all factions, in addition to an Egyptian observer who will monitor the committee’s work and openly identify the party that blocks its work. Therefore, I am satisfied.”
Commenting on the formation of these committees, Al-Batsh said: “The door is open for all factions to participate in the committees.”
He added: “However, Fatah and Hamas, being the two factions that are involved in the problem, agreed that each one of them will have three representatives on each committee, so that they may be able to take decisions fast without having to go back to their political leaders for consultation. Thus, decisions will be taken within the committee, and we believe that this method is much better and it expedites the dialogue.”
On a separate issue, informed Palestinian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Dr Musa Abu-Marzuq, deputy chief of the Hamas Movement’s Political Bureau, made a secret visit two days ago to the Rafah City in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip to see his mother for the first time in 30 years and returned to Egypt on the same day.
The sources said Abu-Marzuq whose family continues to reside in the Rafah City arrived at the Rafah Crossing at 6 am on Friday and left the crossing at 10 pm.
The sources added that Abu-Marzuq who is based in Damascus headed to his family’s home, which he left 30 years ago, and met with his mother and relatives, in addition to local leaders of the Hamas Movement in the city.
The sources ruled out the possibility of the visit being connected to developments in the case of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and to a calm agreement with Israel.
The sources noted that there was no need for Abu-Marzuq to come to the Gaza Strip in order to discuss these issues because he was in Cairo in the company of Dr Mahmud al-Zahhar and Dr Khalil al-Hayyah who are among the most prominent leaders of the Hamas Movement in Gaza. The sources added that contacts between the Hamas leaders abroad and in the Gaza Strip do not cease.
The sources said it is likely that the motives behind the visit are family-related. They added that Abu-Marzuq wanted to see his mother and meet with his brothers and sisters. The sources noted that his father died years ago.
Meanwhile, Egyptian security sources said Abu-Marzuq was accompanied by three members of the Hamas Movement delegation who came from abroad to take part in the reconciliation dialogue between the Palestinian factions that was recently held in Cairo. They are: Ismail Fathi Idris, Nahid Fayid, and Muhammad Ahmad Sa’d.
The Egyptian sources said the passage of Abu-Marzuq and the delegation that accompanied him through the crossing took place under very high security coordination.
It is recalled that Abu-Marzuq’s elder brother is Maj. Gen Mahmud Abu-Marzuq, a former commander of the Civil Defense in the Palestinian [National] Authority, and he belongs to the Fatah Movement.
Musa Abu-Marzuq left Rafah for Egypt 30 years ago to study engineering. From there, he went to the United States where he obtained a master’s degree and doctorate in engineering and practiced teaching at US universities before travelling to Jordan in the 90s of the past century.