Another Egyptian Round for Hamas

When both Hamas and Fatah report "positive movement," it is best to be cautious. That said, it would appear that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak achieved three major agreements in Cairo yesterday with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The agreements are intended to enable the flow of money to the PA, to determine the delegation of authority between Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh - particularly in regard to control of the security forces - and to reach a common diplomatic position based on the prisoners' document.

Abbas is to work to bring Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions into the Palestine Liberation Organization, in order to neutralize Hamas' opposition to the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. PLO official Farouk Kaddoumi and senior Hamas officials discussed the issue in Damascus last week. The talks scheduled for Tuesday between Mubarak and his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, are aimed at overcoming Islamic Jihad's reluctance to join the PLO.

Theoretically at least, the willingness of Hamas to join the PLO signals its readiness to adopt the agreements the PLO signed with Israel, including the Oslo Accords and the Arab League's 2002 Arab Initiative. This is the current focus of Egyptian diplomacy. According to an Egyptian source, Egypt will suggest a formula that combines the prisoners' document and the 2002 Arab Initiative signed in Beirut, in which "the words 'the State of Palestine in the 1967 borders' will be an integral part."

According to the Egyptian source, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has been recruited to help soften Hamas' position by providing an acceptable interpretation of the formula. However, pressure from Palestinians in the territories seems to more effective than the Muslim Brotherhood.

The disagreement over authority and control of the security forces is supposed to be solved by means of a military convention uniting the militias of the various Palestinian factions into a single police force while letting them retain separate authorities and budgets. Initial agreement on this has already been reached. Implementation depends partly on Hamas' joining the PLO.

Egypt is hoping that by the end of the month Abbas, Mubarak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet at a summit during which Israel is asked to commit to a cease-fire.