الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   25 أيار 2013

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NO END TO THE SPLIT
هاني المصري

 “The latest agreement between Fateh and Hamas on a three months’ postponement of those parts of the Cairo Agreement and Doha Declaration they had previously agreed to implement, not only reconfirmed that ending the split and regaining national unity are not within reach; but that managing the split, let alone ending it, is equally unattainable,” writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.

 

At the end of April, it was announced that the president had begun consultations to form a new government to succeed Salam Fayyad’s cabinet, which had tendered its resignation first time on 23/2/2013, and again on 7/4/2013, only to be accepted on 13/4/2013.
According to the Basic Law, the president has a maximum of two weeks to designate another person to form a government to succeed a resigned government, and the PM-designate must form a new government within five weeks at the most. This period will end by the second of June. Meanwhile, the national accord [Fateh/Hamas] government is supposed to be formed within three months – that is, within the period that ends by 14/8/2013. And this means that there is a period which begins on the second of June and continues until further notice, in which the government vacuum may be filled based on one of three possibilities:
- First, Salam Fayyad may remain as PM in violation of the Basic Law, until a national accord government is formed. This latest violation of the Basic Law would be justified by appeal to ‘the supreme national interest,’ which takes precedence over everything else, and by arguing that that Law is suspended in light of the inter-Palestinian split – so much so that both the president and the Palestinian Legislative Council’s (PLC’s) terms in office have expired years ago without referring to the people again.
But this option will not be sustainable if Fayyad insists on his resignation and on leaving his post within the legal limit. This is especially likely given that his resignation did not arise within an ordinary context, but as a result of a crisis and disagreements in which domestic and foreign factors interacted in a manner that renders the government’s survival an insult to all parties.
- Second, the president may nominate an independent figure to form a government, or he may preside over the government in its current format. This would be an extremely difficult option. It would concentrate all power in the president’s hands for an unknown period. Moreover, no one really believes that a national accord government will be formed by the middle of August. Many such deadlines have been violated in the past, and there is nothing to ensure that the new deadline will be held.
The figure designated to form a new government may be a member of the current cabinet, someone like Nabil Qassis who resigned from the Ministry of Finance, or someone else, because this would not require the formation of a new government; or the new PM may come from outside the government, i.e. someone like [independent figures] Mohammad Mustafa, Rami Hamdallah, Ziad Abu-‘Amr, or Munib al-Masri.
- Third, a Fateh figure may be designated to form a government in which representatives of the other factions as well as independent figures take part. But that would be a Fateh government and not a government in which Fateh takes part, as has been the case since the [2007] split [with Hamas] and up till now.
The president’s desire – and he is the ultimate decision-maker – is reflected in his declaration that Salam Fayyad will remain in place during the transitional period until elections are held. Fayyad may be designated to form the government again. And this presidential desire stems from the fact that Fayyad is internationally accepted, especially by the U.S., and that he assumed the president’s burden when he assumed the burden of the administration of the PA in all its shortcomings and deficiencies throughout the previous period – from the outbreak of the split and up till today.  Moreover, if the president were to designate himself or another figure to head the government, then whether that figure happens to be an independent or a Fateh member, that would send a message to the effect that the agreement on forming an accord government within a few months is not serious and lacks credibility.
The ball, therefore, is in Fayyad’s court. Will he agree to remain as head of a caretaker government until further notice, or will he insist on leaving his post by the end of the legal period for forming a new government? Moreover, can he, if he so wishes, declare that June 2nd is his last day at the head of the government, that he will not show up for work after that date, and that the president has to deal with this one way or another?
According to those close to him, Fayyad insists on leaving and will not back down this time round. He has already begun to behave as if he is on his way out by limiting his official contacts and holding non-official meetings. But nothing is permanent in politics; it moves in light of changes and interests. Given this, if Fayyad reaches the conclusion that remaining in government (especially if he receives the president’s backing and cover in confronting Fateh’s successive attacks on him, thereby becoming a PM with real powers and not merely an employee of the president with the rank of PM) will help realizing his future political ambitions, then he could remain in his post. But this may still be difficult.
 Every person has the right to have political ambitions, and Fayyad’s ambition to play a future political role is evident, as is clear from numerous signs. The most recent such sign was his announcement that he was considering running in the coming elections, and that he will continue to be politically active after leaving his current post.
Fayyad’s insistence on leaving is possible, especially since the reasons that led to his resignation still exist. It is necessary for him to realize that the Palestinian regime is in effect a presidential system, and not a mixed presidential/parliamentary system. This is contrary to what appeared to be the case after the creation of the post of PM and the introduction of amendments to the Basic Law.
Moreover, staying in his post is also possible, though unlikely, especially given the wishes of the president as well as certain Arab and international parties and the U.S. administration, all of whom have informed the Palestinian leadership that they have no problem dealing with a new and suitable PM. But the problem lies with the U.S. Congress, in light of the doubts that it would be willing to deal with any other figure who will replace Fayyad.
Fayyad’s insistence on departure after the announcement of the agreement on forming a national unity government within three months will portray him as irresponsible and as the man obstructing the reconciliation.
What improves Fayyad’s chances of remaining in his post, at least during June, is the fact that the fate of [U.S. Secretary of State] Kerry’s efforts will become evident during that period. If they make progress, this will enhance the prospects of his remaining in office and reduce the chances of reconciliation. And if Kerry’s efforts fail, this will accelerate Fayyad’s departure and increase the possibility of forming a national accord government. (This does not necessarily mean the end of the split unless coupled with parallel and simultaneous action to unite Palestinian institutions -especially the security forces- reach an agreement on a political program that embodies common denominators, and rebuild the PLO’s institutions in a manner that allows them to include all shades of the Palestinian political and social spectrum.)
The problem remains much deeper and greater than that of forming a government and the identity of who will preside over it. The option of bilateral negotiations under U.S. sponsorship without any bargaining cards, without any terms of reference, and without any real guarantees or binding implementation mechanisms, or a short time-table, has failed in the past and is bound to fail again. Moreover, the success of this path would mean only one thing – namely, the liquidation of the Palestinian cause via a transitional or final status agreement.
When a new and a long-awaited path is chosen, it can be decided whether we need to form a national accord government in accordance with what has been in place since the PA’s formation and up till now, or whether we need to disband the entire PA or change its structure and mission and reconsider its commitments.
“Once that happens, the PM will be chosen or not in a manner that is appropriate to the new situation,” concludes Masri.
Ends…

 

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