In sensitive cases and moments, Arafat has taken the habit of making surprise moves, and this time was no exception when he issued his presidential decree on 5/10/2003 stipulating a state of emergency and the formation of an emergency government, following his meeting with Qureih. The emergency government consists of eight ministers, knowing that Arafat had refused the idea when Qureih suggested it after the resignation of Mahmoud Abbas. In parallel, he agreed on forming an ordinary government of 24 ministers, during the meetings of the Palestinian Authority’s executive committee, of Fatah Central Committee and his consultations with national factions and officials. A few hours before issuing the emergency decree, the names of factions and ministers were decided, the government’s agenda was drawn as well as its priorities on the internal and foreign levels.
Since it was established, Ahmad Qureih’s government is facing a strong opposition campaign within and outside the Palestinian Legislative Council. Palestinians were astonished by the decision regarding the state of emergency and its consolidation of an unprecedented negative point in their lives. No one was convinced of Qureih’s justifications. Not one Palestinian political faction or party is supporting the government and defending it.
National and Muslim factions published violent statements attacking the government, and though it is formed of Fatah members only, a communiqué published by Fatah described it as the “government of functional division with the occupation.” Sharon and his staff voiced their reservations, considering it as Arafat’s government; a spokesman said it is a “silly act that won’t last long.” The U.S. also voiced its reservations and a White House spokesman said: “We would like to see what it will do against terrorism.”
Will Qureih’s government succeed in achieving where Abbas’s government failed? Will an emergency government last long?
Without even conducting opinion polls, it is possible to say most people in Gaza and the West Bank have doubts in the ability of Qureih’s government to achieve its agenda, even if it were able to put an end to Sharon’s plans, which are quickly being implemented on the ground. Needless to say that a small government with little supporters, and which life is set at one or two months, will not be able to achieve, during Sharon’s tenure and with the imminent U.S. presidential elections, what Abbas’ government failed to achieve in four months, regardless of whether it was called an emergency government or not.
The fact that it was not called an emergency government following the meeting of Fatah’s Central Committee and a few moments before ministers swore oath before Arafat, shows that the Palestinian leadership is lost and confused. It also confirms that the reasons given before, to justify the fact that an emergency government was not formed still stand. If such a government were not formed when Israel violated its agreements with the Palestinians, when its tanks broke into cities and camps, when it imposed a siege on Arafat, cutting water and electricity and when it paralyzed the Authority, then its formation cannot be justified now.
No one can deny the statement of Palestinian Prime Minister who said that the Palestinian scene is witnessing exceptional circumstances, a state of emergency and that the “chaos must be put in order,” all this requires that the Authority’s split must be settled, in order to end all the meddling with the cause and people’s lives. Everybody knows that exceptional circumstances and all other facts are not emergency issues and were not born following the resignation of Abbas’ government or following the damaging suicidal attack carried out by Islamic Jihad on 4/10/2003, in Haifa killing 19 civilians including four Arabs and a number of innocent children and women; rather they are prevailing facts resulting from the “militarized” Intifada triggered in September 2000, and following the freeze of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in Taba in January 2001, the defeat of Barak, and the victory of the Israeli right wing led by Sharon in February 2001.
Despite the discords about the new government and what it can achieve, I guess it would be useless to raise questions about it and about the state of emergency, why it was formed now, not two months or two years ago, especially that it has a short life and cannot perform the exceptional missions. It will not push the tanks away from the Palestinian cities and camps in order to implement martial law and curfew, it will not tire itself with widespread arrest campaigns, etc. with measures taken in regular states whenever a state of emergency is announced. These missions are carried out daily by the occupation; Qureih’s government can barely provide security for ministers and freedom of movement to its President from his town Abu Diss to Ramallah.
It is Qureih’s right to try and secure in one month what Abbas didn’t achieve in months; but he would be acting unfairly towards himself, his ministers and his government if he pledged to provide the Palestinian demands set within the Roadmap. The Roadmap is the only political program available on the ‘market;’ and according to most Palestinian parties, it is practically based on Powell, Tenet, Zinni and Bremer’s ideas and plans since Bush’s administration accepted 12 reservations out of 14 proposed by Sharon. If General Zinni went on vacation two years ago and never came back, and calmly withdrew himself from the mission, John Wolf, in charge of supervising the Roadmap is also on vacation, and according to Western diplomats, he is considering apologizing; it is being said that he is convinced that his return won’t revive the Roadmap and won’t salvage the peace process.
Qureih knows, better than anyone else, that reasons behind the peace process tumbling are recklessness of the White House master, his deputy Dick Cheney, and his Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld towards the Arab positions and towards the human rights of the Palestinians. They have no reaction towards the policy “kill, destroy and negotiate,” adopted by Sharon since he took power, and are dealing with the Arab – Israeli peace process according to Sharon’s catalogue and are supporting with no limits his expansion racist policy. I guess that Bush’s policy towards the Palestinian – Israeli struggle will not change during the presidential election year, and even if it did it will be for the worst on the Palestinian level. One can not still believe that Bush is keen on implementing his vision and that he is still holding to establishing a Palestinian state along with the Israeli state before the end of 2005.
If Qureih were ready today to negotiate with the Israelis in order to reach a mutual and permanent cease fire as he said, probably Sharon is not ready to hold serious negotiations with the the Prime Minister of a silly government formed by Arafat upon a presidential decree as Guessen, his official spokesman said. Even if Sharon responded and met with new Palestinian Prime Minister, the meetings results will be no better than that of his meetings with Abbas, especially following the Aqaba meeting, held in the presenece of President Bush and the Palestinian Israeli meetings in some of which Qureih took part.
I guess that the missions of the emergency government and that of the ordianry one are limited to reducing Palestinian casualties, providing security and food for the people, putting an end to the invasion of cities and camps in the Gaza Strip carried out by the Israeli army, stopping land confiscation, building settlements, putting an end to building the fence that divides Palestinians and separate them from their lands, aborting the decision to expulse Arafat. If stopping suicidal attacks against Israel and the Israelis, gathering unauthorized weapons, closing the tunnels in Rafah, prohibiting arms smuggling, stopping the production of Qassam missiles, forbidding their use, were all issues that helped in achieving the above mentioned national missions, then all national and Muslim forces namely Hamas and Islamic Jihad are asked to hand the priority to the national interests and to cooperate with Qureih, in order to reach a truce that would guaranty achieving people’s demands and goals directly.
In this context, it is fine to ask suicidal attacks’ partisans on the Palestinian scene to look very carefully in the reaction of the Syrian leadership towards the Israeli air raid on Syrian territories, and how it received the U.S. – Israeli message, avoiding to start a direct confrontation with Bush’s administration despite the fact that it is aware that the raid had U.S. approval. If the Syrian leadership refused to be dragged to where Sharon wants, then Hamas and other organizations don’t have the right to outbid the Syrian leadership and the Syrian army. Hamas and Al Qassam Brigades announced that they will retaliate to the Israeli raid with attacks that will shake the ground under Israeli feet! It isn’t in the Syrian or Palestinian’s interest, and I didn’t understand the call of Hamas to act in a field that is not related to Palestinian issues.
Moreover, it is not in the interest of the Palestinian people, national and Muslim forces to voice positions against Qureih’s government and work on toppling it, rather everyone should consider it as a temporary procedure and work calmly during this month, not because it will not enter any confrontation with anyone as its president said, but because toppling it would morally harm the Palestinian people and its cause. We can not fear a Palestinian civil war during the coming two months, because factors that obstructed it during the past three years still stand. Palestinians refuse the idea and Sharon doesn’t propose an interesting political program, he is asking the Palestinian leadership to launch a civil war. The only solution he is suggesting is the racist one, which he is trying to impose through building the fence. Bush’s administration has abandoned the peace process in the region and day after day, it seems busy in the elections and in reducing its human and economical losses in Iraq.