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Palestinian PM: Unity Government Powerless to Meet Treaty Obligations on Disarming Hamas

The New York Times on Thursday conveyed remarks from Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah – who sits atop the newly formed cabinet agreed to by the rival Hamas and Fatah factions – admitting that his unity government has functionally zero control over the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip:

“You have to be realistic — we’re not in control,” said Mr. Hamdallah, 55, a former university president. He noted that German reunification started a quarter-century ago, and that “up until now, they are still working on that, so don’t expect we’ll do it all in 24 hours.”

The interview that was published on the same day that 88 senators dispatched a letter to President Barack Obama demanding that the PA be monitored for compliance with among other things its treaty obligations to Israel. The letter [PDF] referenced black-letter U.S. legislation banning assistance to any government over which Hamas exercises an undue influence:

By its actions and inaction, Hamas has demonstrated it is not a partner for peace. Hamas has openly called for Israel’s destruction and last month Hamas leaders again repeated their refusal to meet recognized international demands: recognition of Israel, renunciation of terror, and acceptance of previous Israel-PLO agreements.

The convergence of the two dynamics – PA impotence in the Gaza Strip and deepening congressional calls for scrutiny – may prove problematic for Hamdallah and for PA President Mahmoud Abbas as they scramble to circumvent congressional moves to block aid to the Fatah-Hamas government. The 1998 Wye Accords obligate the PA to “establish and vigorously and continuously implement a systematic program for the collection and appropriate handling” of any weapons in the Gaza Strip except those permitted by the earlier 1995 Oslo II agreements [PDF]. That treaty in turn sharply limits the kinds of arms that government security forces are allowed to possess, and Hamas’s forces and missile arsenal fall far beyond that scope.

The Thursday New York Times article described Hamdallah as having “repeated political platitudes about Palestinian unity, but offered no practical program to deliver it.”

The language in the Wye Accords obligating Ramallah to disarm Hamas and integrate its forces, which is applicable in “areas under Palestinian jurisdiction,” does not seem to allow the PA to ignore its obligations in cases where implementing the required “systematic program” would be really inconvenient or challenging.

[Photo: NewsCast / YouTube]