Initial analysis of the agreement reached at Mecca between Fatah and Hamas for the establishment of a Palestinian national unity government

From left to right, Abu Mazen, King Abdullah, Ismail Haniya and Khaled Mashaal
after the signing of the Mecca Agreement (Souhib Salem for Reuters, February 8)

Main points of the Agreement

1. On February 6-8 negotiations were held in Mecca between senior members of Fatah and Hamas. Among them were Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, and Khaled Mashaal the head of Hamas’s political bureau.

2. The negotiations were held in Saudi Arabia under the auspices of King Abdullah, and at their conclusion the Mecca Agreement was signed. It main points were the following: 1

A. Palestinian blood must not be shed . All steps must be taken to prevent Palestinian bloodshed and to adopt the policy of dialogue as the only means of settling political disputes.

B. A Palestinian national unity government is to be established on the basis of the �detailed agreement� reached by Fatah and Hamas. (The specifics were not mentioned.) It was decided that as soon as possible, both sides would start implementing the necessary constitutional steps to form the government.

C. Furthering proceedings were necessary to reorganize the PLO for development and reform.

D. The objective of the agreement was to enable both sides, Fatah and Hamas, to turn their energy to �liberation from the burden of the occupation,� �and first and foremost in matters concerning Jerusalem, the refugees, Al-Aqsa mosque, the prisoners and detainees, the [security] fence and the settlements.�

3. At the signing of the Mecca Agreement, Nabil Omar, Abu Mazen’s advisor, read Abu Mazen’s letter of appointment to Ismail Haniya, which stated that: 2

A. Abu Mazen charged Ismail Haniya with forming the next Palestinian government during the period of time specified by the Palestinian basic law and presenting it to the Palestinian Legislative Council for ratification.

B. Abu Mazen called upon Ismail Haniya to honor legitimate international decisions (i.e., those made by the UN) and agreements signed by the PLO . That includes those made on the basis of by previous decisions made by the Palestinian Legislative Councils, the �national reconciliation document� (i.e., �the prisoners’ document� 3) and the decisions made at Arab summit meetings.

4. The distribution of portfolios among Fatah and Hamas ministers was not specified in the Mecca Agreement or the letter of appointment. According to Palestinian news media reporting from Mecca, it was decided in principle that nine ministries would to go Hamas, six to Fatah (including that of deputy prime minister), four to other factions and five to independent public figures (among them the important ministry of the interior, which includes control of some of the security forces, the foreign ministry and the ministry of finance). According to one version, Abu Mazen would choose the minister of the interior from among candidates proposed by Hamas (Agence France-Presse, February 8).

5. Deliberations on the exact composition of the government are expected to continue until Abu Mazen and senior Hamas members return to the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians throughout the PA were pleased with the agreement and expressed their support by holding processions and waving Hamas and Fatah flags.

The significance of the Mecca Agreement � first evaluation 

6. The Mecca Agreement primarily expresses Fatah-Hamas interest to prevent a continuation and worsening of the violent clashes between them. In effect, Abu Mazen and Fatah decided in favor of an internal Palestinian reconciliation at the price of concessions to Hamas and ignoring the demands of the United States and the Quartet.

7. Hamas would seem to have profited most from the Mecca Agreement because it was able to preserve most of its governmental assets without making ideological concessions with regard to the continuation of terrorism against Israel and without having to accept the conditions of the Quartet and the international community.

8. Fatah’s participation in the national unity government and Abu Mazen’s call in the letter of appointment for the honoring of previous agreements signed by the PLO were intended to permit Abu Mazen and Hamas to present a less belligerent front to the international community. That was done in the hope of reinstating foreign aid and ending the PA’s political isolation . However, the Mecca Agreement makes no mention of two of the United States and the Quartet’s fundamental demands which are fundamental components of previous agreements (including the road map): recognition of the right of the State of Israel to exist and abandoning terrorism and violence as solutions to the conflict. Hamas spokesmen used the media to make it clear that the future national unity government’s political platform did not include recognition of Israel . 4