1) The Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) considers dialogue the only effective means of settling political disputes among the Palestinian factions and forces. In observance of this principle, the movement has played a principal and major role in accomplishing the Cairo Declaration of March 2005, the National Accord Document of June 2006, the Mecca Agreement of February 2007 and the National Concord on the Tahdi’ah (truce or calming) of June 2008.

2) In harmony with this principle, and right from the onset of the Palestinian division (which everyone knows has been a regrettable consequence of the coup attempt against the results of the Palestinian elections of 2006), HAMAS has sought after dialogue and reconciliation with those who turned against the electoral legitimacy and violated the Mecca Agreement and all national accords relying on foreign aid that amounted to collaborating with the enemy with the aim of removing HAMAS from the political scene altogether (see the Vanity Fair report in this regard). Despite all of this, the movement responded positively to all dialogue and reconciliation initiatives and sought after them with enthusiasm whether they were governmental or non-governmental initiatives. However, all efforts have been frustrated due to the rejection of the other side and the U.S.-Zionist veto.

3) In regional and international political circumstances that are known to all of us, and upon the arrival of the settlement negotiations at a dead end and the steadfastness of HAMAS and our Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip despite the siege, the war of attrition and the collective punishments, and as the date for the election of the Palestinian Authority President approached, there came the Egyptian invitation to a Palestinian dialogue and reconciliation meeting. The movement decided to respond to the Egyptian invitation positively and with the highest degree of responsibility without being distracted by the background or the timing in the hope that this initiative might succeed in accomplishing genuine Palestinian reconciliation that would end the state of division, restore cohesion to Palestinian ranks, and lay the foundation for a new reality based on national partnership in a manner that would reflect the results of the elections, unite the Palestinian stance in defending the rights of the Palestinian people and lead to a good management of the conflict with the occupation.

4) Having despatched a working paper comprising the questions related to the most important themes and issues of the dialogue, the brothers in Egypt adopted the method of conducting bilateral meetings with the Palestinian factions and forces. Within this context, a HAMAS delegation left for Cairo on 8 October 2008 where it met with Minister Omar Suleiman and a number of his assistants. A number of points aimed at securing the positive climate needed for the success of the dialogue were agreed upon during that meeting. The most important of these points were: a- the formation of a national unity government;b- rebuilding the security agencies on a national basis and in a professional manner in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with Arab financial and technical support; c- with regard to the PLO, and by virtue of the failure of previous mechanisms, a commission should be formed in order to rebuild the PLO. It was agreed that the commission should conclude its mission within two months of the comprehensive national  meeting that would be attended by all the factions and was supposed to be held in Cairo from 8 to 11 November 2008;d- with regard to the presidential and legislative elections, the dates of elections would be discussed within the framework of a comprehensive national accord that should tackle all the aforementioned issues that would be agreed upon as one package so that nothing is agreed upon until all issues are agreed upon;e- Cairo would host a bilateral meeting between the movements of Fatah and HAMAS for being the parties of the dispute that led to the Palestinian political schism between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This was considered an essential prerequisite for the success of the comprehensive national dialogue that was supposed to have been held from 9 to 11 November 2008. The Egyptian brothers set the 25th of October 2008 as a date for the bilateral meeting between Fatah and HAMAS; f- A prior agreement would have to be reached on the Egyptian paper before it were submitted to the comprehensive dialogue meeting of the Palestinian factions and forces;g- HAMAS stressed the necessity of inviting all the Palestinian factions and forces without exception and without preconditions so as for the national dialogue to be truly comprehensive.

5)   We received the Egyptian paper as did the various factions and forces. HAMAS and a number of Palestinian factions felt that the paper did not reflect the spirit of what was discussed during the bilateral meetings with the brothers in Egypt. As such, the paper did not constitute a proposal that could succeed in patching up the rift and ending the division and that is capable of enduring in the face of challenges both present and future. Hence, we took the initiative of submitting our observations on the paper to the brothers in Egypt as did most of the other Palestinian factions. The following were the most important observations: the necessity of separating the requirements of reconciliation and ending the division among the Palestinians on the one hand and the issues pertaining to managing the conflict with the occupation on the other; the agreement should be a single package agreement that tackles all the disputed issues; implementation should be simultaneous in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; the issues discussed should include the formation of a national unity government, the restructuring of the security agencies on professional and national bases away from any factional quota arrangements, rebuilding the PLO, conducting tribal and communal reconciliations and conducting presidential and legislative elections. These issues should be treated as a one-package that should first be agreed upon before final endorsement.

6) However, we were surprised to learn from the brothers in Egypt that the bilateral meeting between the movement of Fatah and HAMAS, which was supposed to be held on 25 October 2008, was not going to be held after all. We were told that the reason for this was Fatah’s rejection of the meeting. They also informed us that they could not accept any amendments to their proposed paper in contravention of what we had agreed upon with them on 8 October 2008 as noted above.

7) As part of our keenness to create an appropriate climate for the dialogue and ensure its success, the government in Gaza took the initiative of unilaterally releasing the detainees of the Fatah movement in the Strip. However, this was met with an escalation, across the West Bank, of the measures of repression, detention, pursuit, torture, the confiscation of properties and the closure of HAMAS institutions by the Ramallah government in coordination with the enemy’s security agencies and with the consent of the PA president and the Fatah movement.

8) Following a thorough assessment of the situation and upon having accumulated a number of indicators to the effect that the dialogue as being arranged was not going to lead to genuine reconciliation or to tackling all the issues of national concern but would instead concentrate on the needs of one party to the detriment of the other and would focus on providing a cover for extending the presidency term for the PA president as the presidential elections date approaches, we requested, by virtue of all these indicators and observations, a meeting with the brothers in Egypt to discuss the matter and to try to rectify the approach in the hope of providing an appropriate environment for the success of the dialogue. They agreed to our request to meet them and we thanked for that.

9) A meeting with the Head of Egyptian Intelligence, Minister Omar Suleiman, took place on 4 November 2008. During the meeting we submitted our observations as follows: a- with regard to the observations pertaining to the Egyptian paper, the brothers in Egypt were clearly positive in their response promising to come up with a new draft paper that would be submitted to the comprehensive meeting. Nevertheless, we have insisted all a long on the necessity of agreeing on the details of the full package before endorsing them and not vice versa; b- with regard to the practices of the Ramallah government in the West Bank, the HAMAS delegation explained to the brothers in Egypt and magnitude and ugliness of the practices of the PA agencies inside the West Bank including the detentions, the pursuits, the torture, the confiscation of properties and the closure of Palestinian civil society institutions. The delegation handed over lists of names and measures and files detailing these practices that have exceeded even those perpetrated by the occupation authorities against our people. We explained to the brothers in Egypt that it would be foolhardy to imagine the launch of the dialogue or the potential for the success of the reconciliation efforts in the shadow of this horrific situation in the West Bank. We demanded the brothers in Egypt to intervene with the PA President so as to end this vicious campaign and criminal onslaught carried out in the West Bank so as to secure a proper climate for dialogue and reconciliation. They promised to intervene in order to stop the campaign and we thanked them for that. c- With regard to the arrangements of the dialogue meetings, we were informed about the amendment of the paper which they were going to propose to the comprehensive dialogue meeting on 10 November 2008. We were also informed that the proceedings of the dialogue will begin with an opening ceremony in a hall within the Egyptian Intelligence Department. During the ceremony, Minister Omar Suleiman and the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia together with the Secretary General of the Arab League and PA President Mahmud Abbas would be seated on a platform (podium) in front of which will be seated the representatives of the forces and the factions invited to the dialogue. Each of those seated on the podium will make a speech starting with Minister Omar Suleiman and ending with the PA President. Then those on the podium will depart including the PA President while the remaining leaders of the factions move to another hall to sign what is supposed to have been agreed on during side meetings among the factions during the day prior to the day of the opening ceremony such as the formation of the committees, determining their tasks and the communiqué emanating from the meeting. We insisted on the brothers in Egypt during the meeting with the minister the necessity of conducting the arrangements for the meeting in a manner that would achieve parity between Fatah and Hamas considering that the reconciliation truly sought is between these two movements and bearing in mind that the PA President is not a host of the dialogue but a party to the dispute. This, we explained, was not intended to undermine the status of the presidency but to assert one of its responsibilities. However, the brothers in Egypt insisted on their arrangements.

10) Out of keen interest on our part and the part of the brothers in a number of Palestinian factions to see a true and fruitful dialogue and not just a mere ceremonial event, we informed the brothers in Egypt that the dialogue was still lacking a number of basic and necessary requirements for the dialogue and the reconciliation to succeed. We insisted that a number of issues should be provided for not because we seek to impose conditions on Egypt but because they happen to constitute a natural right and a basic prerequisite for any dialogue let a lone a national reconciliation effort. These issues are:1. Tangible measures to stop the ongoing campaign in the West Bank to a level sufficient to reassure the Palestinian citizen and the affiliates of the Palestinian forces and factions that an appropriate climate for reconciliation and dialogue has been created. These measures are:a) the immediate halt of the repressive measures carried out by the Ramallah government against Hamas and the resistance factions;b) the release of all political detainees held by security agencies of the Ramallah government; c) securing the participation of the West Bank Hamas delegation in the Cairo dialogue.   2. The attendance of the PA President, who is also the PLO Chairman and the Head of Fatah at the same time, in all the dialogue sessions because he is a main party to the dispute and the Palestinian division without undermining his position as a President. 3. The dialogue measures and arrangements should establish balance and parity among the parties especially between the two main parties of the Palestinian dispute and division so as for the two parties to feel they are being treated fairly and that they stand at equal distance from the party hosting the meeting. We noticed that fairness is not something the arrangements communicated to us took into consideration. It would, consequently, seem as if the PA President had come to reconcile others and not for the purpose of conducting reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas within the framework of the comprehensive national meeting. We informed the brothers in Egypt that the movement’s position and that of a number of the factions that were invited to take part in the dialogue meeting set for the 10th of November, in terms of whether to attend or not, would be determined in light of the provision of the appropriate climate to secure success taking into consideration the above-listed basic demands. 

11) Communications and discussions with the brothers in Egypt on these issues continued until we received on the evening of Friday 7 November a final official response to our demands as follows:  with regard to the West Bank: the brothers in Egypt contacted Mr. Mahmud Abbas about halting the campaign in the West Bank and he told them he was doing nothing illegal and that he had no political detainees; there were amendments with regard to the meeting arrangements. (this in our assessment is a failure to establish parity and balance among the parties concerned as would usually be expected of the host of any dialogue)

12) One may add to the above, as clearly realized from the response of the PA president to the brothers in Egypt and from the statements he makes, that Mahmud Abbas seeks to incriminate and outlaw the resistance and seeks to impose additional basic conditions on the dialogue with the consequence of obliging all the parties to comply with the conditions of the international Quartet. This is what he implies when he talks about the entire commitments of the PLO. This is definitely rejected by our people and by the Palestinian forces and factions and this is what obstructs the creation of an appropriate climate to secure the success of the reconciliation on foundations and according to principles acceptable to the Palestinian people. 

13) In view of the above, the movement took a decision not to participate in the dialogue meetings that were supposed to take place on 10 November due to the lack of the climate and logical prerequisites for the success of dialogue. The movement communicated its decision to the brothers in Egypt on morning of Saturday 8 November 2008. The same decision was adopted by three other Palestinian factions: Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine the General Command (PFLP-GC), and the Vanguards of Popular Liberation War – Al-Sa’iqah Forces.

14) Despite our regret that matters have reached this end, we do in Hamas affirm our adherence to dialogue and reconciliation. We shall always be ready to cooperate with the brothers in Egypt and with other Arabs in order to end the state of division and to accomplish national reconciliation through a serious Palestinian national dialogue that possesses a real will and that takes into consideration the basic requirements and provides fairness for all.

MRN

Author: MRN Network

The aspiration of the Media Review Network is to dispel the myths and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims and to foster bridges of understanding among the diverse people of our country. The Media Review Network believes that Muslim perspectives on issues impacting on South Africans are a prerequisite to a better appreciation of Islam.