An Arab League council is scheduled to meet tomorrow (Sunday, 10 April) to discuss escalating Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip. The meeting is scheduled to be held at the level of permanent representatives.
According to Ahmed Ben Helly, deputy secretary-general of the pan-Arab organisation, the meeting is being held at the request of the Palestinian Authority to discuss "new Israeli crimes against Palestinians under occupation".
"Despite the call for reform that is currently consuming the Arab world, the Palestinian cause remains a top issue for Arab countries," Ben Helly said.
Meanwhile, Arab League sources say that the meeting that "will be specifically dedicated to the Palestinian issue" will examine the course of Palestinian reconciliation that is perceived as both overdue and a possible shield against major Israeli aggression on Gaza.
Since July 2007, when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip and ousted all of Fatah's Palestinian Authority (PA) apparatus, a bitter conflict has been ongoing between the two major Palestinian factions. The move of Hamas came in the wake of PA aggression — at times in coordination with Israel — against resistance movement elements.
Meanwhile, Israel has been imposing a harsh siege on Gaza as well as launching recurrent military attacks that amounted to a fully-fledged war in late 2008 and early 2009.
The PA, for its part, has latterly been under Arab and Western pressure to delay reconciliation with Hamas. The argument was that a coalition government between Hamas and Fatah could undermine chances for a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Today, a leading PA source says, prospects for a peace deal are all but non-existent.
Moreover, the PA is afraid of the consequences of a new Israeli war on Gaza, "which is not imminent but cannot be excluded", according to the same Palestinian source. One of the obvious consequences of such a war is the possible collapse of the PA under public pressure, even in the West Bank.
This week in Cairo, Arab League Chief Amr Moussa received PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the prospects of a prompt reconciliation process. Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Moussa said that he is willing to go with Abbas to Gaza to strike a deal with Hamas.
Such a deal, however, is not easy to deliver. Hamas, according to its position conveyed this week to the League, is willing to pursue reconciliation on a set of security arrangements that will have to include an end to intelligence cooperation between the PA and Israel on Hamas activists. Abbas is still non-committed on this.
Hamas is also determined to see a merging of sorts between its current isolated government in Gaza and the Salam Fayyad government in Ramllah. Abbas is more inclined towards a technocratic government that he says would be more accepted by the US and the international community.
However, Abbas's hand has weakened in the past three months considerably, having lost his strongest Arab ally, the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak. Hamas, for its part, is aware that its strongest Arab ally, the regime of Bashar Al-Assad, is too busy with democracy protests that are sweeping Syria to attend to the Islamist resistance movement.
In the statement expected to come out of tomorrow's meeting, the Arab League is going to call on both Hamas and Fatah to come to terms on reconciliation, says a senior Arab League official. The statement will also call on the international community, especially the International Quartet, to exercise influence over Israel to end its aggression on besieged and impoverished Gaza.
Close to 10 Palestinians have been killed and many others injured since Israeli started to escalate its aggression on Gaza this week.
It is not clear whether or not the Arab League meeting will discuss the controversy around Judge Richard Goldstone who recently went back on his incriminating position against Israel for its violation of international law and international humanitarian law during its war on Gaza that started in 2008.
"This report (the Goldstone Report) is already adopted as a document by the UN and we are not going to have it withdrawn," Arab League Secretary General Moussa said over the weekend.