By virtue of its vast oil reserves and the fact that the Holiest city of all Islam is within its boarders, Saudi Arabia will always have a special status in the Arab world. The nation also used to be considered the leader in the Arab world, but in many ways the Saudi King has lost power to Iran, the world’s leading exporter of Terrorism.
As this Debka article suggests, The real reason for the Saudi moderated marriage between the Fatah and Hamas Terrorist groups, is the desire of the Faisal monarchy to once again become the power brokers of the Arab world. As a matter of fact, for the last two months they have been manipulating events to make sure that the “marriage” took place.
Riyadh’s Aim in Mecca: to Replace Tehran as Palestinian Hamas Backer February 11, 2007, 4:06 PM (GMT+02:00)It is no wonder that Israeli policy-makers have had little to say to the Palestinian reconciliation accord which Saudi king Abdullah brokered in Mecca last week. Israel was shouldered off the stage as a player in Palestinian politics, as was any hope of moderating the Palestinian anti-Israel war, a breakthrough to peace talks – or even a form of long-term coexistence. Its main outcome was the anointing of Hamas as unconditional king of the Palestinian domain.This decline in Israel’s standing as a factor in Middle East politics dates back to the Lebanon War and its outcome last summer. If there are to be any accommodations with Israel, the Mecca accord has relegated them to an uncertain future and entirely on Saudi-Hamas terms.At Mecca, the Saudi monarch had quite different fish to fry: the replacement of Tehran as Hamas’ senior financier and backer. To this end, he dictated a reshuffle in both rival Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah. The Damascus-based hard-line Khaled Meshaal, who had signed a pact with Tehran, was demoted, as was the second signatory of the Palestinian reconciliation package, the moderate, pro-Western Mahmoud Abbas. Raised in their place was prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, leader of Hamas’ political wing. Abbas’ ally, Gaza Strip Fatah commander Muhammad Dahlan, can expect a senior post in the Hamas-led government. Another winner is his business partner, the Palestinian-Kurdish tycoon Muhammad Rashid, who has turned his coat at least twice in two weeks while jostling to regain the influence he enjoyed behind the shoulder of the late Yasser Arafat who died in 2004.DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources disclose that Ismail Haniya’s rise to the top of the Hamas tree was plotted during his visit to Riyadh in the second half of January. His audience with the king went on then for three hours, an unusual length for Abdullah’s conversations with foreign leaders. It sufficed for a secret deal to be concluded laying down the elements of cooperation between the Saudi government and Hamas political leaders in Gaza and effacing the effects of the US-led international boycott of the Hamas-ruled Palestinian government. Whereas Washington has so far not commented on this process, Abdullah has used it as a fulcrum for a fresh Saudi Middle East policy initiative. The Saudi king and the Hamas prime minister agreed on a six-point plan for subsequent incorporation as the core of the Mecca accord:1. A shared interest in weakening Israel and active collaboration to achieve this goal;2. This collaboration is based on personal trust between Abdullah and Haniyeh. As middlemen, they appointed Saudi intelligence chief Prince Moqrin bin Abdulaziz and the Palestinian Muhammed Rashid; DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources report the Saudi monarch sent his private plane to Libya Tuesday, Feb. 7, to fly Rashid first to Medina then to Mecca as his unofficial royal envoy to the Palestinian summit. Rashid’s role in obtaining the signed accord was crucial, elevating to him to a high albeit unofficial position of influence in the Saudi royal court and in Palestinian affairs; 3. The Saudi throne endorsed Ismail Hanya as Palestinian prime minister on condition that he introduced members of the Fatah young guard, led by Dahlan, to key government positions. This group of factions, which includes the suicidal al Aqsa Suicide Brigades, aspires to take Fatah over from the veteran leaders including Mahmoud Abbas;4. King Abdullah personally guaranteed full Saudi diplomatic, military and financial support for the Hamas-led Palestinian government;5. Hamas government members would not be required to recognize Israel or previous peace agreements. No mention was made of violence against Israel or the renunciation thereof;6. The most pressing goal in Riyadh’s sights was Haniyeh’s personal guarantee to scale down in stages the Iranian and Hizballah presence in Hamas ranks with a view to banishing both from the Gaza Strip. Prince Moqrin is in charge of the quiet understandings accompanying this point of agreement, which also contains a Saudi pledge to take the place of Shiite Tehran and Hizballah by paying for all the weapons and military instructors the Palestinian group needs.Riyadh thus reverted to its original role as the founder and banker of Hamas, which the Saudis created in the 80s as a Sunni counterweight to the Shiite Hizballah.It is not at all sure that Haniyeh will be capable of living up to his six-point deal with the Saudi king or whether Meshaal will let him. Haniyeh leads Hamas’ political wing, but Meshaal, who was shunted aside in Mecca, is the master of the military wing. He is capable of ordering Hamas gunmen to challenge Haniyeh and thwart the deal’s execution. This would set off a fresh round of Palestinian factional warfare, which Meshaal and Abbas solemnly vowed in Mecca to halt. Over the weekend, a delegation of Hamas military chiefs arrived in Gaza from Damascus – presumably to arrest the decline of Meshaal’s standing in Gaza as a result of the newly-reshuffled Palestinian leadership, although this is not confirmed. No reaction has been forthcoming from Washington to the foursquare financial, military and intelligence backing Saudi Arabia has granted the extremist, jihadist Hamas, with no strings attached. The heads of Israel’s government have clearly not yet digested the fact that an Arab power which its policy-makers had counted on as a moderating, pro-Western Arab force had proved to be the opposite of this. Foreign minister Tzipi Livni appealed in Munich to European leaders not to be in a hurry to accept the Mecca Accord. She ducked the real issues: Saudi Arabia having show its real spots and the continuing passivity of the Bush administration, although Washington had enough leverage in Riyadh to hold the Saudis back from supping with Hamas.
It is one of the few certainties of global politics: any major initiative by a player in the Middle East conflict is inevitably viewed with deep suspicion by those on the other side of the divide. And so it remains after yesterday’s agreement in Mecca by Hamas and Fatah leaders to form a coalition Palestinian government. The deal calls for an end to factional fighting that has killed more than 100 people in the occupied territories in recent weeks, battles that had threatened to spiral into all-out civil war. Pro-Israel bloggers are quite clear in their sentiments, summed up by the US-based Yid With Lid site:
The sad fact is Israel is left with the status quo: two terrorist groups killing its citizens, two terrorist groups with a public goal of eradicating the Zionist entity, and a world without the guts to confront the threat of terror.
Another blog, Captain’s Quarters, gives its views under the weary headline ‘Haven’t we heard this before?’, saying:
At this point, all this agreement does is to slap fresh paint on a death machine.
Others, of course, take a different tack. The Beirut-based Daily Star paper prints an article by the Israeli academic Reuven Paz, from the multi-faith Herzliya Interdisciplinary Centre. He urges Israelis to overcome their usual suspicions for the sake of practical benefits; to, as the title of the piece says, ‘Judge the Hamas movement by its deeds, not its ideology’. The Palestinian government can only be made more practical if the local Hamas leadership can be “released from its Iranian chains”, he argues:
This in turn can be accomplished by allowing Hamas to exercise its legitimate rule and by ceasing to boycott the movement. This would push the Palestinian people to encourage Hamas to adopt a more pragmatic line. The will is already there. It is the sense of siege that pushes Hamas into the arms of the hard-liners.
Time magazine, in a blog post by its local correspondent, also urges Israel not to be too hasty:
If Israel is wary of such an arrangement, it also has to take into account the Mecca Accord’s profound Palestinian, Arab and Islamic dimensions. After decades of Fatah dominance and a year of Hamas rule, the deal for a national unity government now strengthens the Palestinian demand for an end to Israel’s occupation.
What is even more important, however, is the fact that it was brokered by Saudi Arabia, which gives crucial Arab and Islamic support to the Palestinians.
Palestinian leaders, whether from Fatah or Hamas, have been keen to find an excuse to divert attention from their internal problems. So it is not surprising that many have jumped on Israel’s reconstruction of an access bridge to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount …
Such exploitation, so widely endorsed by the Palestinian leadership, is dismaying, if sadly unsurprising.