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I Hope That I’m Mistaken - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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At a time when the Palestinian cause was merely a political card that several parties sought to manipulate for the sake of urgent as well as transitory interests, the Palestinian cause for Saudi Arabia was a fateful issue that was not to be manipulated today and discarded tomorrow. At a time when a multitude of parties in the region aggravated the inter-Palestinian conflict as a way to impose their presence regionally without taking the Palestinian party’s interests into account, Saudi diplomacy tried to bring peace to the land of peace despite all the campaigns and accusations hurled against it. At a time when the region suffered from the absence of an active diplomatic player to resolve the conflicts among the brethren in Palestine, Saudi Arabia tried to compensate for this absence and to bear the responsibility that should have been borne by all.

The United States is immersed in Iraq and is totally absent from the Palestinian scene. As for the Russians and Europeans, it’s simply a case of much ado about nothing. On the other hand, we find Iranians fueling the fire, indifferent to the interests of the Palestinians as long as the lack of stability in the region serves certain interests and targets of their own. The Syrians woefully shout and threaten to take action for the sake of Palestine and its people when in fact they are only concerned about themselves and what could affect them.

Only Saudi diplomacy has succeeded in bearing the historical responsibility for all parties, gathering the warring brothers in Holy Mecca and extinguishing a fire that could have burnt everyone. Or in the words of King Abdullah when he addressed the two clashing Palestinian parties, “Do not ruin us or ruin yourselves” – the brevity of the phrase does not fail to reflect the core of the matter and the reality of the situation.

Only Saudi Arabia succeeded in uniting the two warring factions in a summit wherein all parties agreed to a declaration that will spare the blood of the innocent and restore hope for a nation that has known nothing but suffering throughout its history. Saudi Arabia has carried out its duty and assumed its responsibilities at a time when others have done nothing but sit back and watch the conflict deepen between the brothers of one nation. Some have even gone further to exacerbate that conflict despite their previous calls, struggles and sacrifices for the Palestinian cause.

Today, after the Mecca Declaration, the ball is in the Palestinian court. It is an opportunity for the Palestinians ‘to be’ or not, and such responsibility entails that there be no ill feelings and for the interest of all Palestinians to be the greatest objective – far from engaging in a political game that serves everybody except the Palestinians themselves and away from external alliances or the dependence on external forces that do not want stability to prevail in Palestine or prosperity for Palestinian people, only seeking to serve their own interests. This is the fount of all fears. The biggest fear is that after the warring factions return to their homes and the euphoria of the Mecca summit fades, ill feelings would return to consume hearts once again, and the game of alliances and wagers and the desire for dominance would reemerge ¬– especially since there exist forces, both Arab and regional, that do not wish for the situation to subside or for wounds to heal. It is in their interests that the conflict subsists and that wounds remain open, exposed for all to tamper with until they fester with sores.

I say this as I recall the image of Afghan factions entering Kabul after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. The images of Sayyaf and Hekmatyar and other conferees who gathered in Mecca to swear in the shadows of the Kaaba never to return to infighting again with smiles on their faces keeps recurring in my mind. These Afghan parties soon returned to their homes with the sound of guns rising above all voices until the Taliban ravaged the country, only to eventually give way to the US invasion, which annihilated all parties. Thus, all that had taken place in Mecca were false pledges and those parties were aware of that fact then. I hope that the Afghan scene will not repeat itself on Palestinian land; however, I am not optimistic for a number of reasons; Palestinian, regional as well as international ones.

Concerning Palestine, the conflict between Fatah and Hamas is not a simple matter that would allow us to believe that the two factions could easily reach a middle ground. Fatah practices politics out of the belief that it is ‘the art of the possible’, in that politics is a set of options and the selection of one of these options is determined by circumstantial conditions on the ground. Today, there is no choice but to recognize Israel, even if you abhorred it, as long as Israel remains an existing entity that imposed itself in reality and as long as the world will not deal with you unless you recognize Israel – and more importantly – as long as such recognition will be in the best interests of the Palestinians and will help reestablish an entity for a nation that has long been dispersed.

As for Hamas, it practices politics from a specific ideological context that is based on a set of rules which are composed of fundamental constants that Hamas cannot forsake. In other words, Hamas practices politics as a part of a process that is made up of a single option, or rather a basic option, after which come other details or options if there is room to address the alternatives. For Hamas, the Israeli entity is rejected in terms of form and content. Thus Hamas is unable to exercise politics fully with what it offers of giving-and-taking and negotiating without having to violate its constants, which in turn places Hamas in a dilemma that concerns its own existence.

If Hamas insists upon this particular constant [its rejection of recognizing Israel], it will not be able to achieve anything especially as the opposing party, namely Israel, refuses to deal with a party that refuses to recognize it in the first place. If Hamas recognized Israel, as a necessary requirement of this stage, it will no longer be Hamas. It will no longer be Hamas if it practices politics as the ‘art of the possible’ and I believe this is the central crisis of Hamas. Such inconsistency will erupt sooner or later in the relationship between Fatah and Hamas and this is what causes a state of apprehension and concern in one’s mind.

With regards to the region, certain states including Iran under the reign of its current president will not benefit from stability in the occupied Palestinian territories. Iran needs affiliates all over the region to achieve its long-term strategic objectives. These affiliates include militias in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. Inasmuch as Iran needs Hamas to be present on the political level in Palestine, Hamas is in dire need of financial aid from Iran. This case of Achilles’ heel is what binds Hamas to Iranian politics and resolutions in case no other hand is extended by another party to solve Hamas’ financial dilemma. The biggest fear here lies in the conditions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Iran, under its current system cannot survive within a climate of stability that would threaten its long-term strategic goals. Thus, the Mecca Declaration is an obstacle to the implementation of the Iranian strategy in the region; it is from here that stems the necessity to invalidate it in any way.

As for international reasons, a Palestinian government in which Hamas is a major player will not be accepted by the majority of countries around the world, especially influential players of the international decision-making process. This is exactly what we have witnessed throughout the year as Hamas represented the Palestinian government. Hamas is widely unacceptable on the international level because it does not exercise politics as the ‘art of the possible’ or as a process of selection, which are the common bases for the game of international politics in the majority of countries in the world. Once again, this is where Hamas’ problem with the rest of the world lies and when Hamas allies itself with Iran for example, the problem becomes deeper.

However, if the Mecca summit and the declaration were to succeed, then Hamas must shift from the revolutionary stage to that of a state, even if this entails abandoning some its ‘constants’ or changing courses. The interest of Palestinian people should be the priority above all else. If Hamas chooses to remain in its revolutionary stage, it will soon have to turn its back on the state.

For all these reasons, I fear that the recent Mecca summit regarding the Palestinian situation will share the same fate as the Afghan-Mecca summit, but I truly hope that I’m mistaken…

Turki Al-Hamad

Turki Al-Hamad

Turki Al-Hamad is a distinguished Saudi Arabian political analyst, journalist and novelist. Mr. Al-Hamad was educated in Saudi Arabia and the United States, where he obtained his PhD from the University of Southern California, later returning to Riyadh to teach political science. He retired in 1995 to take up writing full time.

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