19 February 2007

Will the Quartet play a peace tune?

The recent formation of a coalition government in Palestine between Fatah and Hamas has renewed hope for peace in the Palestine Territories. Needless to say, it has been warmly greeted by Palestinians. But not entirely by the so-called Quartet of Mideast Mediators (The European Union, the United Nations, the United States and Russia).

The Russians seem to be onside. They have urged the Quartet to accept the new government. The UN special coordinator on the Mideast peace process calls the new arrangement "a very important step forward." But the United States is playing the spoiler. Unless the new government agrees to all the conditions previously demanded by the Quartet, the U.S. will continue to subject the Palestinians to sanctions and will boycott all cabinet ministers in a unity government, including Fatah members and independents.

The American recalcitrance will do nothing but mischief for the cause of Middle Eastern peace. Rejecting a breakthrough that has brought new hope to the Palestinians, and no doubt relief to the Arab world generally, the U.S. is once again showing itself to be the dog wagged by the Israeli tail.

If the deal fails to advance the Palestinian cause, Mahmoud Abbas will be held principally to account. He is the president, he is the Palestinian with the strongest reputation in the international community. If he can't sell it, his reputation among Palestinians will be seriously damaged. Meanwhile Hamas's popularity has been sharply revived by the deal. If Abbas fails, the Palestinians may see Hamas as their sole legitimate leader. It's hard to believe that's what the Americans want, but that's what their intransigence could lead to.

Let us hope wiser heads in the Quartet prevail.

No comments:

Post a Comment