The unity agreement signed in Mecca last Thursday marked a major victory for Hamas. Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh could not have hoped for a greater achievement.
Even amid the pressure exerted by the Suadi king, Hamas would not waver and came out stronger as far as the internal Palestinian arena is concerned, and much stronger in the eyes of the Arab world and the international community.
Hamas did not relinquish its rule or ideology, did not recognize Israel or renounce terror and did not agree to acknowledge past agreements with Israel. In return for this inflexible stance it received the unity government that it wanted so much.
Hamas sought a unity government to promote the lifting of the economic and political siege imposed on the Palestinians by the international community’s and end the infighting.
The organization wanted Fatah’s participation in the new government so as not to bear sole responsibility for the economic, social and political failures in the Authority and to gain the legitimacy to remain in power and continue instilling fundamental values in Palestinian society.
In Mecca Hamas won the jackpot. The agreement, along with millions of dollars from the Saudi king, will help Hamas recover from its economic crisis, strengthen its hold on government and arrive at the next elections in a position to win the presidency as well as the elections for the Legislative Council.
Nothing to loseAnd what if the unity government collapses? Hamas still has nothing to lose. If the bogus partnership should fall apart - and this may happen rather quickly – the blame will fall on Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas, not only in the PA but in the entire Arab world as well.
Mecca’s sanctity, coupled with Saudi king’s efforts, was not enough to bridge the gap between Islamist Hamas and the nationalist Fatah organization. It was Abbas who eventually backed down when he agreed to establish a unity government before drafting its guidelines.
Abbas' body language on Thursday testified to the disagreements and to the fact that he understands that the Saudis and Hamas have trapped him.
The important question as far as Israel is concerned is whether the agreement would accelerate Gilad Shalit's return home. Abbas demanded his release as a condition, but it appears that as long as the government is not established, Hamas will continue to take advantage of Gilad Shalit as a bargaining chip in its battle against Fatah.
If the international community recognizes the new government – and this might definitely happen in light of the cracks in the Quartet's stance – Israel could find itself isolated in the face of the stance demanding that it negotiates with the Hamas-led government.
Expressions of unity and joy and an end to the street battles are expected in the Palestinian street in the coming days. But one must not be mistaken. The ideological differences have remained deep and wide as they were, and it is only a question of time before the clashes erupt once again. And have no illusions, even a unity government will not bring an end to terror and the launching of Qassam rockets.