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July 28, 2014 Special Dispatch No. 5809

PLO And Fatah: Kerry Initiative, Paris Conference – A Plot To Bypass Egypt And Remove The PLO

July 28, 2014
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 5809

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (center) speaks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier behind French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (second from the left) prior to Paris conference. Source: AFP, July 26, 2014.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has so far failed to obtain Hamas and Israel's agreement to his July 25, 2014 proposal for a week-long humanitarian ceasefire. Under the proposal, 48 hours after the moment a cease-fire comes into force, Israel and Hamas would conduct negotiations, under Egyptian mediation, on the following issues: a cessation of military activities; lifting the seige; opening the border crossings, abolishing the buffer zone on the Israel-Gaza border, setting up a port and an airport in Gaza, and expanding the fishing zone off the Gaza coast.

Israel rejected the proposal, noting that it includes no clear statement regarding Israel's right to continue destroying Hamas' attack tunnels. However, on July 26, it did agree to a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire, and afterward extended it by four hours, and then by an additional 24 hours.

Hamas did not agree to extend the cease-fire beyond the 12 hours, and at its conclusion it resumed firing rockets into Israel. On July 27, an additional ceasefire went into force, per Hamas's request; that too was violated by the Palestinian factions.

The Kerry proposal effectively marked his turning away from the Egyptian initiative towards an initiative that is more similar to the proposals of Hamas, Qatar, and Turkey. Kerry's tilt towards the Turkey-Qatar axis and against Egypt was reinforced July 26, at the Paris conference that was aimed at promoting a ceasefire. The conferees included Kerry and representatives of France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Turkey and Qatar, but Israel, Egypt and the PLO were unrepresented.

The Paris conference was criticized by Palestinian Authority (PA) and PLO members, and PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas was reported to have expressed anger at being ignored. Senior Palestinian officials and columnists attacked the U.S. policy that they said had attempted to bypass the PLO and Egypt and to work with Qatar and Turkey – both of them Hamas supporters – as if they represented the Palestinian people.

Senior Palestinian Official: The U.S. Again Strives To Strengthen The Muslim Brotherhood

Speaking anonymously, a senior Palestinian official told the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that Kerry had tried "to destroy the Egyptian initiative and the Palestinian comments on it (the 'Abbas Plan) and present a substitute for our initiative... Kerry wanted to create an framework that would be an alternative to the Egyptian initiative and to our concept regarding it, in order to please Qatar and Turkey.

"Kerry proposed his initiative after we were very close to a comprehensive agreement guaranteeing the lifting of the siege on Gaza and obtaining all the Palestinian demands. If the issue was lifting the siege, abolishing the buffer zones, opening the crossings, and expanding the fishing zones, we could have obtained this on Wednesday [July 23]. An announcement of [this achievement] was ready for publication – but (Hamas political bureau head Khaled) Mash'al called a press conference and destroyed the ['Abbas] initiative...

"Then [Kerry] presented a new initiative. Kerry wanted to take advantage of the war in order to again strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood's regional influence, because the Americans think – and will be proven wrong – that that moderate political Islam represented by the Muslim Brotherhood can combat radical Islam...

"With regard to the Paris conference, a senior Palestinian official said: 'This conference was held on the basis of the Kerry initiative, that is, support for and strengthening of the Muslim Brotherhood. We were not invited, and neither was Egypt – but Turkey and Qatar were invited, and that explains everything... 'Abbas is very angry about this profiteering in Palestinian blood and its use in regional power struggles.'"[1]

According to Palestinian sources, 'Abbas also expressed displeasure at Kerry's initiative and at the Paris conference in a telephone conversation with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius; 'Abbas asked Fabius sarcastically, "Why are you [even] calling me [at all]?"[2]

Fatah Central Committee member 'Azzam Al-Ahmad, who is Fatah's appointee in charge of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, said: "The Palestinian people will not pay the price of the regional power struggles with their blood. The Palestinian leadership welcomes any foreign aid that is pure and that does not involve actualization of interests in the region at the expense of spilled Palestinian blood."[3]

Fatah, PLO: Turkey And Qatar Do Not Represent The Palestinian People

Fatah's information office had a harsh response to the Kerry initiative: "No one represents the Palestinian people at any event; rather, [the only representative is] the Palestinian suffering and spilled blood. Whoever wants Qatar or Turkey to represent him should leave and live over there. Our sole legitimate representative is the PLO."[4]

Ahmad Al-Majdalani, a PLO Executive Committee member who is close to 'Abbas, said: "The issue of the aggression against the Palestinian people must be handled regionally, with the Egyptian initiative and the Palestinian clarifications to it that essentially complete it. We see no alternative... We want to distance the Palestinian problem from the regional power struggles to which we are not party. The Palestinian problem is too important to be a side in regional conflicts."[5]

'Omar Al-Ghoul, who served as advisor to PA prime minister Salam Fayyad, and who is a columnist for the PA official daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, mused: "Why have they ignored Egypt? Can the [Paris conference] participants ignore Egypt and its geopolitical status? Why were Turkey and Qatar invited?

"Let us assume that the participants in the meeting wanted to circumvent Egypt until a formula acceptable to members of the anti-Al-Sisi regime axis was worked out – [but] why didn't they invite Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Jordan, for the sake of balance? What did the US and the other conferees want?

"The Palestinian leadership and people promote every Arab, regional, or international effort to stop Israel's war, stop the bloodletting, and defend the Palestinian people in the southern districts [i.e. the Gaza Strip] – while the conference and the forces participating in it prove that it was not innocent and does not strive to stop Israel's shedding of Palestinian blood. Its objective was to circumvent the Egyptian initiative and Egypt's role, and to plan to return to shaping the region according to the American vision and according to the U.S.-Israeli plan that will restore the MB to their status...

"The elements participating [in the conference] cannot in any way circumvent or skip over Egypt. Egypt plays a decisive role in the form and character of the initiative, and they need not distance themselves from Egypt and its initiative. Hamas and its supporters should act responsibly, stop the shedding of Palestinian blood, and defend what the resistance gained in the last war. The political leadership should join the popular resistance in the northern districts [i.e. the West Bank], the diplomatic efforts, and the main political goal.[6]

Former PA Minister: An American Plot To Get Rid Of The PLO

In an op-ed on the Palestinian news website Amad.ps, former PA minister Hassan 'Asfour wrote: "[From the list of Paris] conferees we learn that this conference is an attempt by the U.S. and Europe, together with Hamas supporters in the region, to find political formulas that can be promoted [to Israel and the Palestinians] on the basis of considerations that are different than before...

"The Paris conference is the most important attempt, as far as the U.S. and the regional Qatar axis are concerned, to fight Egypt and its allies... Recently this became known to some elements on the official Palestinian side, and they said openly that Hamas is rejecting the Egyptian initiative and what the Palestinian leadership proposed only in order to comply with the wishes of some of its allies in the region.

"It seems that the main issue for the regional 'Hamas alliance' has changed – from an effort to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip to the question of how to impose a 'political siege' on Egypt and on its future role and presence, by means of an alliance that no longer hides its hostile aims vis-à-vis Egypt.

"This campaign is openly led by the Turkish [Prime Minister] Reccep Tayyip Erdogan, who has not desisted from his war against Egypt... that shattered his Ottoman Turkish dream of a 'new caliph in Western garb moving through the region' [i.e. himself]...

"The Hamas leadership is making a huge mistake that will never be eradicated from historical political memory, if it is deluding itself that the regional U.S.-sponsored alliance will allow it to succeed the PLO by circumvention – or if Khaled Mash'al is planning to succeed 'Abbas via a 'plot' formulated previously, and [thus] to realize his old dream...

"There is a ray of hope that some Hamas leaders will prevent the exploitation of the Palestinian blood, and particularly the blood of the Gaza Strip residents, for the sake of actualizing one of the most dangerous political plots that the Palestinian people and its national problem have ever known..."[7]

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 27, 2014.

[2] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 27, 2014.

[3] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), July 27, 2014.

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 27, 2014.

[5] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 27, 2014.

[6] Amad.ps, July 27, 2014.

[7] Amad.ps, July 26, 2014.

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