Analysis / A potential victory for Ahmed Qureia

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 08-Dec-03 | Author: Danny Rubinstein | Source: Ha'aretz

The final meeting of the Palestinian factions, gathered in Cairo since Thursday, will be held today and most likely will end with a deal for a cease-fire with Israel. Egyptian General Omar Suleiman, who is coordinating the talks, is to depart later this week for Washington to present the conclusions of the meetings to the American
administration and demand a similar Israeli commitment.

The Palestinian pledge for a cease-fire will be conditional upon a complete cessation of Israeli military
activity in the Palestinian Authority territories.

Last night, there were still disagreements between the
factions over the deal's content. The opposition groups, lead by Hamas, insisted it is impossible to commit to a
cessation of attacks against soldiers and settlers in the territories. However, senior PA officials were confident that, even if no signed document is achieved, the verbal
understandings will include a complete cease-fire that will last at least until Israel's response to the Cairo meetings is made.

In short, they are all going to wait and see if Israel halts its military activities in the territories: the assassinations, arrests, raids and razing of homes.

Despite the disagreements, a spokesman for the Islamic opposition, Muhammad al-Hindi, expressed optimism that the talks will be concluded successfully. The Islamic Jihad
leader in the Gaza Strip said there is a common view that no attacks will be made against civilians.

The expected success of the talks will be interpreted as a victory for Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala), who arrived in Cairo last night to attend the concluding session. Qureia managed to steer the different
factions into cease-fire negotiations without any criticism from the opposition groups.

Following the failure of his predecessor, Mahmoud Abbas, who met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon immediately following his appointment, angering the opposition groups,
Qureia has been tougher, insisting on a number of Israeli concessions and fending off all attempts to set up an early meeting with Sharon. Qureia has also not come out with a public statement of support for the Geneva

Overall it is clear the opposition groups are sending signals of compromise, even though they state they have no confidence in Israel remaining faithful to the cease-fire.