Talking Unity / Cease-fire Lets Hamas Cling to Non-recognition

The cease-fire could not have taken root were it not for the Egyptian proposal, with Saudi Arabian backing, that the political and security issues be kept separate. In other words, not to make a cease-fire conditional on the formation of a Palestinian unity government. All sides understood that putting together such a government was a very complex matter. It is not merely an issue of dividing the ministerial portfolios but also the guiding principles of such a government.

The main issues of dispute between Fatah and Hamas, the recognition of Israel, the acceptance of the Beirut declaration, and the personal friction between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas Political Bureau Chief, Khaled Meshal, left little chance for the Egyptians to find a solution to the economic siege on the Palestinian Authority. The public pressure on Arab governments to release some money to the PA did not sufficiently alter the economic situation there. Without the funds, there was real concern among Hamas that it would lose its legitimacy, particularly in the West Bank.

In recent months the Egyptian approach had been one of creating an alternative leadership in the PA, which Israel and the international community could work with, or which would at least result in an agreement to lift the economic boycott.

However, too much "bad blood" stood between Fatah and Hamas, and the joint efforts of prisoners of both factions to initiate the creation of a unity government led to naught. Meanwhile, the impasse was resulting in scores of Palestinian deaths, leading to growing domestic pressure in the Arab capitals.

Thus, the Egyptians opted for a different tactic: Separate the need for a unity government from that for a cease-fire.

Hamas has no problem with a solution that does not challenge it on an ideological level. In the past there had been a cease-fire with Israel, which the latter violated with its assassination policy.

Hamas had even said that it would accept a long-term hudna under certain conditions.

Egyptian sources also said that both Hamas and Abbas have been promised that even if Israel does not lift the boycott on the Palestinian Authority, the Arab states would - if the cease-fire holds. If this is the case then Hamas has made double gains: It has managed to lift the sanctions, gained a cease-fire and has not made any concessions to Israel.

On Saturday, even though Egypt's Hosni Mubarak had the agreement of Meshal and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for a cease-fire, he held back. He was still not sure that some of the Gazan factions, clans with whom Egypt and Hamas do not necessarily have any contact, would abide by the cease-fire. For this, he waited for Abbas to make the announcement: Mubarak did not want to chance any breakdown and preferred for the Palestinian leader to take responsibility.

In reality, Hamas managed to dictate a cease-fire without, at this stage, making any concessions to its ideologically motivated lack of willingness to recognize Israel.