Robert Fisk reports:
Secret meetings between Palestinian intermediaries, Egyptian intelligence officials, the Turkish foreign minister, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal – the latter requiring a covert journey to Damascus with a detour round the rebellious city of Deraa – brought about the Palestinian unity which has so disturbed both Israelis and the American government. Fatah and Hamas ended four years of conflict in May with an agreement that is crucial to the Paslestinian demand for a state.
A series of detailed letters, accepted by all sides, of which The Independent has copies, show just how complex the negotiations were; Hamas also sought – and received – the support of Syrian President Bachar al-Assad, the country’s vice president Farouk al-Sharaa and its foreign minister, Walid Moallem. Among the results was an agreement by Meshaal to end Hamas rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza – since resistance would be the right only of the state – and agreement that a future Palestinian state be based on Israel’s 1967 borders.
“Without the goodwill of all sides, the help of the Egyptians and the acceptance of the Syrians – and the desire of the Palestinians to unite after the start of the Arab Spring, we could not have done this,” one of the principal intermediaries, 75-year old Munib Masri, told me. It was Masri who helped to set up a ‘Palestinian Forum’ of independents after the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority and Hamas originally split after Hamas won an extraordinary election victory in 2006. “I thought the divisions that had opened up could be a catastrophe and we went for four years back and forth between the various parties,” Masri said. “Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) asked me several times to mediate. We opened meetings in the West Bank. We had people from Gaza. Everyone participated. We had a lot of capability.”
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports:
Arsonists torched a West Bank mosque early Tuesday and scrawled Hebrew graffiti on one of its walls.
The Palestinian mayor of el-Mughayer village said a tire was set ablaze inside the mosque in an apparent attempt to burn down the building.
No one claimed responsibility for the act, but suspicion fell upon Jewish settlers, both because they have carried out similar acts in the past and because the graffiti read, “Price tag, Aley Ayin.”
“Price tag” is a settler practice of attacking Palestinians in revenge for Israeli government operations against settlers. Aley Ayin is a small, unauthorized settler outpost that was evacuated by security forces last week.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the act, calling it “a heinous act of provocation.”
Noting Netanyahu’s comment, U.N. Mideast envoy Robert Serry said in a statement, “The actions of Israeli extremists are highly provocative and threatening.” He called on Israel to “ensure the accountability of those responsible and protect the human rights of Palestinians and their property.”