Geneva Initiative Annexes
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GI Position Paper: Palestinian Unity Government

Geneva Initiative Position Paper on Palestinian Unity Government
Date: 18.03.07

More of a Partner than Ever Before: Negotiating with President Abbas upon the Establishment of a Palestinian National Unity Government

Since his election, President Abbas has never enjoyed faith and confidence on the part of the GOI and has never received the backing of the Hamas.

Currently, President Abbas is perceived by the GOI as a true and credible partner for peace. With the establishment of a Palestinian National Unity Government, Abbas has been granted a mandate to negotiate with Israel on behalf of the Hamas-led Palestinian Unity Government.

The new Palestinian Unity Government should be evaluated according to the formula adopted by past Israeli Governments, whereby the Palestinians are tested according to deeds and actions on the ground rather than statements and declarations.

Abbas's agreement to conduct negotiations with Israel; the continuation of the ceasefire and the return of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit – are all criteria by which the Palestinian leadership's readiness for peace should be evaluated.

On January 9th, 2005 Mahmoud Abbas was elected to Presidency by a majority of 62% of the Palestinian public. During his campaign, Abbas was portrayed as a pragmatic candidate who called to end the intifada and to conduct negotiations with Israel.
Abbas's election sparked hope among the Israeli public and in this context PM Sharon stated that "for the first time in a long time the region is experiencing new hope for a better future for our children and grandchildren".

Nevertheless, during his first year as President, Abbas did not enjoy the confidence of the GOI. He was labeled as a "spring-chicken with no feathers" and was perceived by the GOI as a leader who cannot stop terror nor live up to the minimal terms set forth in order to conduct negotiations. The Israeli perception, according to which Abbas was incapable of leading the Palestinian public, was also one of the central claims for the implementation of the unilateral Israeli disengagement from Gaza in the absence of a partner for peace.

On January 25th, 2006, Hamas won the elections for the Palestinian Parliament. One of the reasons for its victory was Israel's unwillingness to negotiate with President Abbas from the Fatah movement. From the beginning of the Hamas term, Israeli leaders longed for the situation which prevailed only a year and half prior to then, during Abbas's first year as President. In February 2007, PM Olmert stated that "we need to maintain the communication channel with the Palestinians. The only possible channel is President Abbas."

For years the GOI has perpetually claimed that the Palestinians will not be judged according to their words but according to their actions. The actions of the Palestinian Unity Government and not its declarations need to serve as the current criteria for evaluation: the willingness of President Abbas to conduct negotiations with Israel; the continuation of the ceasefire and the return of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, are the measures according to which the Palestinian leadership should be judged. Instead of seeking the faults and flaws of the new Palestinian Government, especially now that President Abbas has been granted a mandate by the Hamas-Fatah Unity Government to negotiate with Israel, and enjoys the confidence of the GOI - negotiations for peace are feasible.