MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya)
The Quartet of international Middle East mediators (Russia, U.S., EU and UN) have expressed their readiness to continue helping the Palestinians both politically and financially if their government complied with international standards.
The appeals of the Quartet have evidently been addressed to the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), which has won the recent elections. Nevertheless, at the meeting in London, the high-ranking representatives of the mediator countries managed to avoid mentioning Hamas in any of their official documents, since the organization is on the U.S. and EU terrorist list.
President Putin declared at his news conference in the Kremlin that Moscow "considers it a mistake to refuse help to the Palestinian people."
The situation in which the international community found itself after the Palestinian parliamentary elections is largely similar to the situation concerning Iran, which was also discussed in London. For several years, the countries involved in solving the Iranian nuclear problem, tried all possible diplomatic methods - from attempts to ignore it, threats, and sanctions to talks and persuasion. As a result, they realized that dialogue was essential but a great deal of time had been lost. The Hamas dilemma is similar. The world community does not want to forego its principles of suppressing terror, but ignoring Hamas is not the best solution, if the Quartet still wants to play a leading role in the Middle East settlement.
Under international standards the Quartet imply repudiation of terror, recognition of the state of Israel, and observance of all previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements, including the Road Map, drafted by the Quartet. All mediators, Russia included, share this position. The only difference is that the U.S. and EU promise to stop funding the Palestinians if the future Hamas-formed government does not meet international standards. Moscow thinks this approach is wrong. But Russia is not a Palestinian donor.
In an immediate reaction to the statement of the Quartet, Hamas official spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri urged the Quartet to make Israel end occupation and aggression instead of telling the victimized Palestinians to bow to the occupation, and remain passive in the face of aggression. This is just the first response. The Hamas leaders realize that they will now have to be directly responsible for the destiny of the Palestinians, and, hence, come to terms with the Quartet. Indicatively, the leader of the parliamentary Hamas faction Ismail Haniya expressed readiness for dialog with the Quartet, all the more so since the majority of Palestinians recognize the state of Israel as a political reality, and favor peaceful settlement. This gives the Quartet hope that Hamas would adopt a constructive position. As Russian President Vladimir Putin said, "At one time this political force was in opposition, and striving for power. As we know, opposition in the whole world leans toward radical statements. The situation has now changed. This force has received the vote of confidence from the people. It will have to justify the trust Palestinian people have placed in it."
In the meantime, the Quartet have adopted a wait-and-see attitude. On the one hand, this is understandable - Palestinian territory is in chaos and it is not clear who to negotiate with and what to discuss. The Movement for the National Liberation of Palestine (Fatah), which dominated Palestinian society for several decades, cannot accept its defeat at the elections. After Yasser Arafat's death Fatah has lost its political resource. Its young leaders failed to come to terms with the older generation on reforms and effective uniform policy. Today young Fatah leaders and Fatah military units refuse to share powers with Hamas. President of the Palestine National Authority Mahmoud Abbas, one of the oldest Fatah members, is wise enough to try to develop dialogue with Hamas in order to prevent a civil war in Palestine, but he does not have influence on the younger members of his movement. Having lost power, they will not think about national interests. Under the circumstances, diplomats are refusing to predict the future developments, and prefer to wait and see what happens.
But on the other hand, the Quartet do not have a choice - the Palestinians have voted for Hamas. They will have to talk to Hamas, and even support the movement so as to avoid chaos in Palestine. Everyone will stand to lose if the process of the formation of Palestinian government becomes deadlocked. In the near future the dialog will be conducted through proxy, with Egypt as the most likely go-between. Russia may possibly undertake the mission of mediation as well. But demanding that Hamas should recognize Israel there and then is a waste of time. Nobody can do wonders.