CAIRO: International efforts must be intensified to convince Palestinians that their future lies with the Palestinian Authority (PA) rather than Hamas, said Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
“Today we are witnessing a race between two Palestinian leaders, two Palestinian entities, and that race is a race to convince the people [which] course is better, the course of confrontation with the Israelis … or the possibility of going through a political process, building up a Palestinian economy, he said during a discussion at the Council of Foreign Relations ahead of next week’s UN General Assembly.
“There is a lot that has to be done in order to be convincing, allowing one to lose the race. And I hope the political legitimate authority of Palestine will not lose that race, the foreign minister added, placing the onus on the international community and Israel specifically to ease restriction of movement and boost the Palestinian economy to help the PA.
Aboul Gheit added that Hamas must be factored into the equation of any drive for a Palestinian peace process but that support must be given to the PA to win over the Palestinians.
CEO of the Palestinian Ramattan News Agency Qassem Ali told Daily News Egypt that like the rest of the world, Egypt did not accept the Hamas victory at the polls. He also hoped that Egypt would take more of an initiative to restore peace between the two warring Palestinian factions.
“Egypt’s position is always a show of support for the Palestinian people but in the end it complies with Israeli wishes, which does what it wants. Egypt also hasn’t accepted the election results. The Egyptian position towards Palestine is very important and there should be attempts to reconcile [Palestinian factions].
The Palestinian territories have been divided since June and the dissolution of a Fatah-Hamas unity government saw Hamas take over Gaza after fighting broke out in the strip. The PA withdrew to the West Bank where President Mahmoud Abbas formed a new government under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
The Egyptian foreign minister also stated that if the discussions for the upcoming US peace conference tentatively scheduled for November were “substantive, then Egypt would convince the Israelis and Palestinians to reach an agreement.
Aboul Gheit said, “We need to understand where we re headed and the endgame. If before the conference there will be a document that will convince people that both of them are able to do something, then you ll find everybody jumping in and trying to help and to push and to convince.
The Arabs and Palestinians are calling for a clear agenda for the conference, with final status talks, a binding resolution and a time table. Israel, on the other hand, wants the conference to be non-binding and to merely launch a declaration of intent, rather than iron out a specific deal.
“Any conference that ignores Hamas will find success difficult. Hamas is a major power in Palestine. And it is not so much a conference as a meeting, which up until now has no substance. It is not built upon a foundation and I don’t see references for success of such a conference unless it was given the jurisdiction to make binding decisions, Ali said.
He added: “External forces are in control of the Palestinian issue. The country was united in what was recognized to be a clean election [which Hamas won], but the international community did not recognize the results. The essence of the Palestinian problem is external intervention and un-enforced resolutions.