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Brig. Gen.(res.) Shalom Harari: 'Details OF Mecca Agreement Are Cloudy- What Is Clear Does Not Look Good'

'Deal To End Internal Palestinian Violence May Hold For Day Or Two But Potential Remains For More Clashes'

'Israel Can Expect To See More Terrorism Despite Mecca Summit'


What are the prospects for the vaguely worded agreement hammered out by Hamas and Fatah in Mecca, Saudi Arabia?  Shalom Harari, a senior reserve officer in the IDF Intelligence Corps and analyst at the Herzliya Counter - terrorism Center centre assesses various aspects of the accord aimed at ending the bloody Palestinian power struggle that has killed dozens of Palestinians in recent weeks. Interviewed by IsraCast,  Harari also analyzes the possible impact of the Mecca Accord on Israel and the ongoing struggle between Radial Islam and established regimes in the Middle East.

Palestinan President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) who represents Fatah and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal faced off in Mecca after weeks of bloody internal feuding inside the Gaza Strip.

Analyst Shalom Harari says they came up with a vaguely worded deal and  'what is clear does not look good'. For example, Fatah has given in to Hamas on the question of fulfilling prior Palestinian agreements with Israel. Instead, the Palestinians talk only about respecting them. Nor is there a clear commitment to halt the violence against Israel that has continued unabated despite the co- called ceasefire.

The IDF intelligence officer thinks there may be a temporary decline in the Palestinian infighting but the potential remains for another blow-up in the Gaza Strip. Harari advises Jerusalem to adopt a wait and see approach adding that Israel will likely experience more terror attacks despite the Mecca agreement. 

Transcript of Interview with Shalom Harari

Q: We are speaking now with Shalom Harari, he is a reserve Brigadier General in the Israeli intelligence core and an adviser to ministers in the Defense Ministry. He is also a senior annalist at the Herzliya Center. First of all, Shalom Harari, we have this agreement reached in Mecca, Saudi Arabia between Fatah and Hamas. What kind of chance do you give for this agreement holding water and being successful after the weeks of bloody infighting between Hamas and Fatah, mainly in the Gaza Strip?

A: In the image it looks as if it is a progress, but when we check carefully the details we understand that we still have to wait, because the details of what was signed there are unclear. The clear thing that we already know does not look good, and I will tell you why: first of all from the declaration of Nabil Amer, the representative of President Abbas, you can see that Fatah gave up the demand from Hamas to acknowledge and to be obliged and committed to the agreements that were signed by the PLO with Isreal and were signed by the PLO and the international community. They do not talk about obligation or commitment, they talk about the Arab word "estiram", which means we respect this agreement, but we are not acknowledging it, we are not committed to it. This trick, that was used until now by the Hamas, now is used also by Abu Mazen and I don't know if this will be enough for the quartet demands and for the United States and the others that demand them to be committed. Second, we don't know yet written and signed agenda of this government, because it was not published. The only thing that they dealt with was the distribution of the portfolios, and even here without names, so we don't know yet who are going to be the ministers, this is still to be dealt with. At least about some of them we know, but not all of them. If you ask me, it looks as if they went to the end of the story without dealing with the beginning, with the heavy problem of the political life of the government, meaning the recognition of what they call the Palestinian legitimacy, which is PLO, the Arab legitimacy and the legitimacy of Israel, and of course the commitment to stop terror. Many things are still very vague and we have yet to wait and see what will be the political details, the political guidelines of this government.

Q: You seem to be saying, Sir, that this is a stop gap arrangement between Hamas and Fatah to stop the internal bloodshed in the Gaza Strip mainly. Is there a danger that the Fatah and Hamas gunman will stop firing at each other now and turn their weapons in the not too distant future with full fury on Israel?

A: First of all I want to remind you that they go on shooting Qassam missiles all this time, including this morning. This so called ceasefire is actually not a ceasefire, it's only partly ceasefire. I want to mention that the Islamic Jihad is not committed to any agreement, including this agreement. That is one section of the Palestinian people. I want to remind you that the Popular Resistance Committee are not committed yet to this and we don't know if they are committed, and many other sections - their position is still very vague. Second, I might assume that at least for day or two we will be able to see decline in the inside clashes between Fatah and Hamas, but I am not very sure that this will hold for a very long time, because the potentials of hatred, the potentials of wars on seats, the wars on power positions and so on are still there, and this so called agreement have not eliminated them yet. Even here I am very suspicious and we have to be very cautious. Everything that came out of Mecca now, if you ask me, is that we still see much more an image than something real. It is not a secret that they can not go out of Mecca with something that looks as an agreement, but as we say - Satan lays in the small details, and the small details - most of them are unknown, and those that are known do not look good.

Q: What kind of impact do you think this image of the Mecca agreement is going to have on the February 19 th meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmet, the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleca Rice, because the Americans have today backed the Israeli position that the Palestinian must recognize Israel and respect previous agreements as well as holding the violence?

A: It is good that we still have nine days to clear in details what was signed there, and I think that both governments, the Israeli and the American, will do their most in order to try and clear what exactly is inside that package, that looks very nice, packed in green paper from the capital of Islam, but actually most of us don't know what's inside, and from what we know, it does not look good, as I said. So we have nine days to check it. I think that one of the reasons you did not hear until now any blessings and congratulations from the main capitals in Europe and the United States is because they don't know either what's inside.

Q: Is this agreement also designed primarily directed towards the Europeans, to try and halt the international embargo of the Hamas government since its election in January of 2006?

A: No doubt that the Palestinians, and mainly Abu Mazen, will try to sell it first to the Europeans, and in front of these European countries you can see Russia, that always tends to play a double game here - I'm talking about the quartet - but since the European governments are now much more experienced with these Palestinian games of tricks and vague non-papers, or vague papers that are still not very clear, I think they will take it much more cautiously now and will be much more cautious about their react. They will also demand to see what's inside.

Q: General Harari, could I ask you this question about the Saudi involvement in the Mecca agreement: is what happening in the Gaza Strip a micro cosmos of the power struggle that is actually being waged throughout the Middle East today, under the surface, beneath the surface mostly, between the radical Islam and the established regimes, which are very wary about being overthrown by radical regimes such as Hamas?

A: No doubt. I think that the Egyptians and the Jordanians, and also the Saudis look very carefully at the growth of power of Hamas, and the big debate within these governments, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, which are also pro western regimes, is whether to fight it totally or to try to tame it and to contain it. If you ask me, most of the cases don't leave for them any other choice. When they do terror against these governments is to try to tame it or to contain it.

Q: And this is the situation today?

A: Yes, that is what I think they are trying to do. They will find, I think, that this experiment does not work very well on Hamas because this is a tiger that is very hard to ride on.

Q: And as far as Israel is concerned, the Israeli government should adopt a wait and see policy to see where this is leading?

A: That is what I think they are doing until this moment, and from our experience we know that we have to wait until Abbas will come here, and then we have to see what the reactions of Hanniyah will be in his weekly lecture, in his responses in press conferences when he is here. Not there in Riyadh, but here. I think that within three or four days we will have the ability to know exactly what really was achieved there, if something at all.

Q: The obvious question that comes to my mind right now is if we are talking about Saudi Arabia at one part of this pole between the radical Islam and the established regimes, where does this leave Iran? Because won't Iran be still pushing Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other radical Palestinians to keep up the pressure on Israel with further attacks?

A: No doubt. And if they will not do it directly, they will do it by proxies. We know that Hamas gives rockets and other war materials to Islamic Jihad, for example, or to the popular committees. This is the Middle East here, you don't always do it directly, sometimes you do it by delegates who do the job for you, in order to "keep your hands clean". I am sorry to say that we are going to see more of the same, even if this summit in Mecca looks this morning as a successful one, we still have to be very cautious.

Q: Shalom Harari, thank you very much for talking with us today.

Transcript by Dar Translations


David Essing

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