The Doha Palestinian unity agreement: Now the hard part
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in December in Konya, Turkey.
February 7th, 2012
07:57 AM ET

The Doha Palestinian unity agreement: Now the hard part

Editor's Note: Robert M. Danin is Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a former Director for the Levant and Israeli-Palestinian Affairs at the National Security Council. He writes the blog Middle East Matters at

By Robert M. Danin – Special to CNN

Monday's Fatah-Hamas unity agreement announced in Doha marks the latest in a series of unimplemented accords between the two Palestinian adversaries. The two sides announced - again - their intention to unify their efforts and form an independent caretaker government to shepherd the Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza to new elections.

In an innovation that apparently violates the Palestinian Basic Law, the two sides agreed that Mahmoud Abbas would serve as both president and prime minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Recall, the PA’s prime minister position was established in 2003 and Abbas was appointed to that post to reduce the absolute powers of the presidency, then in Yassir Arafat’s hands. Ironically, it is now Abbas as president who is seeking to claim back what he once tried to take away.

Monday's announcement is more of a statement of intent than it is a full-fledged accord. When it comes to Palestinian unity agreements - and there have been a few - the announcement is the easy part.

Recall the February 2007 Mecca Accords and last April’s unity agreement –each either collapsed rather quickly or was never even implemented. In the case of last April’s unity agreement, many of the key details were left to be resolved. Such is the case today. Will finances be shared under the unity agreement? Will Hamas agree to disband, let alone agree to recognize previous PLO agreements (including recognition of Israel)?

Another key question is: just how independent would such a transitional government be? The approach adopted last April, while calling for a technocratic government, also called for an outside steering committee comprised of Hamas and Fatah that would provide direction to the government.

Such directional control would have been enough for such a government to be considered untouchable by the United States, and probably the other members of the Quartet. These kinds of critical details will need to be addressed before the two sides reconvene in Cairo on February 18 as they have agreed to do.

Perhaps the more interesting question is why, after just last week when Fatah officials criticized Hamas for failing to consult in earnest, did the two sides come together with today’s shotgun announcement?

Two sets of shifting, interrelated regional dynamics are at play here. First, both Fatah and Hamas have effectively lost their respective patrons - Mubarak in the former case, and Assad in the latter. This has created something of a vacuum that has led to a second phenomenon: other regional players stepping in to try to help encourage Palestinian developments along.

Over the past month, Jordan has shepherded talks with Israel in an effort to guide the two parties back to final status negotiations. Amidst intensive Jordanian diplomatic efforts, the Qataris called Abbas and Khaled Meshal to Doha, and apparently made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. It remains to be seen if Abbas said yes as a polite guest, or if he is serious about moving forward.

In all likelihood, Abbas probably said yes in order to create options for himself and create two parallel tracks - a potential negotiating track brokered by the Jordanians and the Quartet, and a reconciliation track brokered by Qatar. Such an approach will not be welcomed by many in the region - Israel has already registered its strong opposition - and others such as Jordan and the United States will also likely tell Abbas that he can only have one approach: negotiations with Israel that do not include Hamas. Yet, Abbas will want to keep his options open.

It is possible that this time is different, and that the region’s uprisings have so altered Palestinian politics that real reconciliation will now ensue, leading to new elections later this year. The fundamentals still argue against it: Fatah enjoys exclusive control of the West Bank and is fighting Hamas on the ground to keep it that way; similarly, Hamas is resisting any Fatah encroachment on their supremacy in Gaza, and it is inconceivable that the militant Islamist organization will relinquish control there should it lose elections.

Hence, PLO chairman and PA president Mahmoud Abbas must make some difficult choices now: reconcile with Hamas thereby establishing greater Palestinian unity but incurring greater international (and possibly regional) isolation and risk losing his Fatah party’s remaining control in a region quickly giving rise to Islamist parties. Or partner with the initiative launched by neighboring Jordan and endeavor to negotiate with Israel. He has long professed this latter option as his preference.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Robert M. Danin.

soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Marine5484


    March 24, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Reply


    1. al-Assad IS in serious trouble. Obama was one of the first world leaders to call explicitly for al-Assad's ouster. ALL THE WORLD CONDEMN AND SANCTION HIM and we must keep doing it until he fall and then bring him as a war criminal along with russian leaders we must attack russian interest every where, they have blood in there hands.

    2. Force is only answer aganist syria now.along with Hizboallah, terrorists must be hunted down, Yes, the Pentagon is reportedly preparing "detailed" contingency options for U.S. military action in Syria. That's what militaries do, and it's only prudent for the United States to monitor chemical weapons sites and eavesdrop on the regime's communications. It's also a good idea for the president to have a full understanding of what his options are and the risks and costs involved.

    3. The U.S. intelligence community is concerned about hizboalla ,iran and iraqi shiia terrorists presence in Syria of fighters from Iraq's shiia branch, who are thought to be behind a spate of bombing attacks in Damascus and Aleppo.

    4. . If al-Assad is to fall, the pillars that prop up his regime must first be removed. Iran and Russia, both of which continue to send weapons and advice, if not more, must be convinced that a post-al-Assad Syria is something they can at least live with. Both countries have met with members of the Syrian opposition, indicating they want to explore their options. Perhaps

    5. Ignoring China. and use the human right tickets aganist them, make it tough for china to buy and sale to any memebers , china love money and will leave asad if there are economic snaction aganist this evil communist regime.

    6. Focusing exclusively on the Syrian National Council he;p them, arm them , finance them, get no fly zones in multiple areas so they can get weapons and supplies, they are already in civil war , so no worries we can safe civilians , al asad already kilkled 14,000 civilians, and more than 132 000 in prison, killing daily.

    .7- attack syria now alonmg with hizboallah as they are hiding chimechal weapons and stash and make the region un stable, attack them now and save millions of civilians later, attack them now and that will make it easy to get red of iran later. we all must be united to get red of those evil fregiemes, dont be silent SILENCE IS A CRIME, HITLER MUST NOT COME BACK AGAIN and he is a life and well as long as IRAN AND SYRIA THUGS ARE COMMITTING CIVILIAN KILLING.

    March 24, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Reply
  3. iran is a terrorists state

    يشار أن لأذربيجان -الجمهورية السوفيتية السابقة الواقعة على الحدود مع إيران- علاقات ودية مع الولايات المتحدة وإسرائيل وقد تزايد التوتر بينها وبين إيران في الأشهر الأخيرة.

    وفي الشهر الماضي اتهمت طهران باكو بمساعدة المخابرات الإسرائيلية في عملية اغتيال العالم النووي الإيراني مصطفى أحمدي روشان الذي قتل في انفجار قنبلة ثبتت في سيارته.

    كما تدهورت العلاقات بين البلدين في يناير/كانون الثاني بعد أن اعتقلت أذربيجان رجلين للاشتباه في قيامهما بالتخطيط لمهاجمة أجانب، بمن في ذلك السفير الإسرائيلي في باكو وأحد الحاخامات، وقالت السلطات الأذرية إن المشتبه بهما كانا يتلقيان المساعدة من رجل إيراني على صلة بأجهزة المخابرات الإيرانية.

    وتقول السلطات الأذرية أيضا إنها أحبطت خطة لعملاء إيرانيين وحزب الله اللبناني لتفجير سيارة ملغومة قرب السفارة الإسرائيلية بأذربيجان قبل أربع سنوات، ومؤامرة كانت تستهدف السفارتين الأميركية والبريطانية في العام 2007.

    كما تنظر طهران حسب مراقبين بارتياب متزايد لجارتها بسبب علاقاتها التجارية المتنامية مع إسرائيل، التي كان آخرها توقيعهما اتفاقا بمليارات الدولارات الشهر الماضي لتزويد باكو بمعدات دفاع صاروخي، في حين تستورد منها تل أبيب أكثر من ربع احتياجاتها النفطية.

    March 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  4. Layan

    Theresa May moves to give police powers to identify internet users
    Lib Dem welcome plan to force internet service providers to keep details linking IP addresses to individuals

    Police are to get powers to force internet firms to hand over details linked IP addresses in order to help them help identify criminal suspects online .
    The anti-terrorism and security bill will oblige internet service providers (ISPs) to retain information linking IP (Internet Protocol) addresses to individual users .
    The home secretary, Theresa May, said the measure would boost national security-but again complained that Liberal Democrats were blocking further step .
    "Loss of the capabilities on which we have always relied is the great danger we face " May said . "The bill provides the opportunity to resolve the very real problems that exist around IP resolution and is a step in the right direction towards bringing the overall communications data capability gap .
    However , the Lib Dems insisted that the communications data bill-branded the " snooper's charter " was " dead and buried " .
    The party also stressed that the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg , had been calling for the IP measures since spring 2013 .
    "It's good news that the Home Office has finally got round to producing proposals on this after being repeatedly asked by Nick Clegg . These can now be agreed and acted on in the upcoming Bill," a Lib Dem spokesman said .
    This is exactly the kind of thing that we need to take action on , rather than proposing an unnecessary, unworkable and disproportionate snooper's charter. There is absolutely no chance of the illiberal bill coming back under the coalition government – it's dead and buried .
    "This issue of IP address matching only resurfaced as a result of deeply misleading claims made in Theresa May's conference speech . That is what has promoted the Home Office to stop sitting on their hands "

    "However , if such a power is required , then it should be subject to the widespread consultation and comprehensive scrutiny that has been sorely lacking to date with industry , civil society and the wider public when it comes to introducing new surveillance powers .
    " Before setting her sights on reviving the snooper's charter , the home secretary should address the fact that one of the biggest the fact that one of the biggest challenges facing the police is making use of the huge volume of data that is already available , including data from social media and internet companies . The snooper's charter would not have addressed this , while diverting billions from investing in skills and training for the police .

    January 16, 2015 at 6:26 am | Reply
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