Arab Perceptions on Gaza Changes
LIANE HANSEN, host:
We turn now to Shibley Telhami. He's the Answar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland.
Welcome back, Shibley.
Professor SHIBLEY TELHAMI (Answar Sadat, Peace and Development, University of Maryland): My pleasure.
HANSEN: As we reported a few minutes ago, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today issued a decree that outlaws the armed groups of the Islamic militant group Hamas and said, its members would be prosecuted. What does this tell you about the possibility of an eventual (unintelligible) between Fatah and Hamas?
Prof. TELHAMI: In a short term it's hard to see, not only this declaration but really the formation of a Hamas government. And the likely support that it's going to get from the international community means that he's just on a, you know, they've decided to separate. And I think these laws decree about outlawing the militant factions of Hamas, I think, is going to be consequential because, clearly, Hamas isn't going to take that lightly and it is likely to lead to some confrontation, the West Bank particularly.
HANSEN: Abbas sworn in his new 13-member cabinet today. What do you conclude from the makeup of that cabinet?
Prof. TELHAMI: Well, you know, when you look at it, I mean, it's interesting that they try to distance it a little bit from Fatah. I mean, even the prime minister, Salam Fayyad, run an independent while he was obviously close to Fatah. But in the end, Hamas isn't going to accept this. They haven't accepted it. They can't possibly accept it. This is just a creation of an authority that is going to be legitimate in the eyes of the United States in particular and the international community - the quartet - that includes Europe and the U.N. and Russia. And it's just going to open up the way aid to have Hamas and the West Bank to console their disposition.
HANSEN: Talking about aid, the top official says Washington's going to lift the ban of direct financial aid to Abbas' new emergency government. So what are you seeing here? What policy towards the Palestinian territory is emerging from Washington?
Prof. TELHAMI: What is clear to me is that now they seem to have found something, which is to support a Mahmoud Abbas' presidency that is primarily focused on the West Bank and to encourage him to take on Hamas at least in the West Bank and to reactivate Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and to come up with some practical arrangements on the West Bank particularly and to forget about Gaza in the short term.
HANSEN: Do you have a picture in your mind about what a future Palestinian state may look like now - given the events to the past week with Gaza under control of Hamas and the West Bank under control of Fatah?
Prof. TELHAMI: Well, you know, there's only one picture really and I'm talking about the picture in terms of viability and in terms of something that might be stable down the road. And based on a two-staged solution, it remains to be the same picture, which is a Palestinian state on both the West Bank and Gaza. And if that doesn't happen, you're not going to have stability. I think what people envisioned in the short term, particularly here in Washington and in Israel and some Arab moderates think of it in terms of a step forward. That there is a stage implementation with focus on the West Bank first in some ways giving the impression that moderation works. (Unintelligible) would have reaped the benefits of making a deal and there will be a short-term deal on the West Bank that would be in contrast with the misery in Gaza.
Now that sounds very nice except for the fact that it's hard to see that you can do it without some coordination with Hamas because they could disrupt it. It's hard to see the Israelis wanting to make a deal as you have an escalation of violence. It's hard to see the Israelis want to give the Palestinian's enough to satisfy them without having a comprehensive agreement. So all of that sounds nice but the complexity is really a huge and I think the devil is in the details.
HANSEN: Shibley Telhami is s senior fellow with the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. He's also the Answar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University Maryland. Thanks very much.
Prof. TELHAMI: My pleasure.
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