Fatah and Hamas Announce Outline of Deal


Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

Under a Palestinian flag, Palestinians of all factions called for unity at a rally in February in Ramallah in the West Bank.

By ETHAN BRONNER and ISABEL KERSHNER
Published: April 27, 2011

JERUSALEM — The two main Palestinian factions, Fatah andHamas, announced Wednesday that they were putting aside years of bitter rivalry to create an interim unity government and hold elections within a year, a surprise move that promised to reshape the diplomatic landscape of the Middle East.

Multimedia
Khaled Elfiqi/European Pressphoto Agency

Moussa Abu Marzouk, representing Hamas, left, and Azzam al-Ahmad of Fatah on Wednesday at a news conference in Cairo, where they announced a deal to create a unity government.

Readers’ Comments

“It is time for the Palestinian people to reject the corrupt and useless leaders who have used violence and strife to insure their positions. It is also time for Israel to reject the extreme factions of their government.”

Jack, Illinois

The deal, brokered in secret talks by the caretaker Egyptian government, was announced at a news conference in Cairo where the two negotiators referred to each side as brothers and declared a new chapter in the Palestinian struggle for independence, hobbled in recent years by the split between the Fatah-run West Bank and Hamas-run Gaza.

It was the first tangible sign that the upheaval across the Arab world, especially the Egyptian revolution, was having an impact on the Palestinians, who have been losing faith in American-sponsored peace negotiations with Israel and seem now to be turning more to fellow Arabs. But the years of bitterness will not be easily overcome, and both sides warned of potential obstacles ahead.

Israel, feeling increasingly surrounded by unfriendly forces, denounced the unity deal as dooming future peace talks since Hamas seeks its destruction. “The Palestinian Authority has to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahudeclared in a televised statement. The Obama administration warned that Hamas was a terrorist organization unfit for peacemaking.

The deal brings with it the risk of alienating the Western support that the Palestinian Authority has enjoyed. Azzam al-Ahmad, the Fatah negotiator, said that Salam Fayyad, the prime minister in the West Bank who is despised by Hamas, would not be part of the interim government. It is partly because of Mr. Fayyad, and the trust he inspires in Washington, that hundreds of millions of dollars are provided annually to the Palestinian Authority by Congress. Without that aid, the Palestinian Authority would face great difficulties.

The announcement was sure to fuel a debate on whether Mr. Netanyahu had done enough in his two years in power to forge a deal with the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas and Mr. Fayyad, widely considered the most moderate leaders the Palestinians have ever had.

The deal also highlighted Egypt’s evolving foreign policy, its increasing regional influence and the challenges that posed for Israel. The new Egyptian government pursued Palestinian negotiations aggressively; has recognized the Muslim Brotherhood, which has deep ties to Hamas; and is reconsidering a natural gas deal with Israel.

Relations between Fatah, the mainstream secularist movement led by Mr. Abbas, and Hamas, the Islamic militant group, have deteriorated since Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006. They ruptured a year later when Hamas seized full control of Gaza, the coastal enclave, after a brief factional war, routing Fatah forces there and limiting the influence of Mr. Abbas and his Palestinian Authority to the West Bank.

A desire for unity has been one goal that ordinary Palestinians in both areas have consistently said they sought. Until now it has proved elusive and leaders of the two factions have spoken of each other in vicious terms and jailed each other’s activists.

But with the Palestinians seeking international recognition of statehood at the United Nations by September, Mr. Abbas has repeatedly said that unity must be restored for a credible case to be made. Other recent developments also played a role.

As Mr. Ahmad said after the news conference in Cairo: “The changes in the Arab region and the political upheaval contributed to reducing the pressure on the Palestinian factions, and by pressure I mean the negative kind of pressure.” He said that he was referring to “the changing rules of the game in the region.”

Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said that the Palestinian Authority’s failure to reach an agreement with Israel and the anger following an American veto of a United Nations Security Council resolution against Israeli settlement construction in February encouraged Fatah to come to an agreement with Hamas. The Islamic group, he said, was motivated to get closer to Fatah by regional changes, especially the protests in Syria, where Hamas’s politburo is based. If PresidentBashar al-Assad of Syria were to fall, Hamas might no longer be able to use Syria as a base or enjoy the protection, money and arms the country has extended.

“We have ended a painful period in the history of the Palestinian people where Palestinian division had prevailed,” Moussa Abu Marzouk, a representative of Hamas who negotiated the deal, said at the Cairo news conference. “We gave the occupation a great opportunity to expand the settlements because of this division. Today we turn this page and open a new page.”

When he spoke at the news conference, Mr. Ahmad of Fatah recalled the chants of young Palestinian demonstrators mimicking the Tunisian and Egyptian chants: “The people want to bring down the regime.”

“To all the Palestinian youth who went out saying, ‘The people want to end the division’ and ‘The people want to end the occupation,’ we say what you demanded was achieved today,” he said, adding that the period of division had taught both sides “a hard lesson in confronting the occupation.”

He said that Israeli officials had warned Mr. Abbas not to collaborate with Hamas but that “he did not heed the warning, and he responded, ‘Yes, we want Hamas.’ ”

The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority has negotiated for a two-state solution with Israel, whereas Hamas says Israel has no right to exist and continues to fire rockets at Israeli towns.

The Palestinian negotiators offered few details of the proposed transitional unity government, saying that it would be composed of neutral professionals and that the leaders of each side would work out details. All the Palestinian factions are to meet next week to sign the agreement.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas leader, told Al Jazeera Television from Cairo the sides had agreed to changes in the interim leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, a tribunal for elections and a date for the elections. The P.L.O. excludes Hamas, which has long sought entry.

Hamas and Fatah will together nominate members of the technocratic government and a 12-judge election tribunal. He also said that an agreement was reached to set up an oversight committee to regulate security.

In November, officials from the two movements met in Damascus but failed to reach an agreement because of differences on security. It seemed likely that Fatah security forces, which work closely with the Israeli Army, would continue to rule in the West Bank, and that Hamas security would continue in Gaza with a tacit agreement not to arrest each other’s activists.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down soon after they started last September when an Israeli moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements expired. The international powers have been working to get the sides to resume negotiations, and Mr. Netanyahu has recently been considering making an offer to the Palestinian Authority to try to pre-empt a United Nations vote. He is due to address a joint session of Congress in a month.

But with this latest shift in Palestinian politics, Mr. Netanyahu may also shift tactics. “I think the very idea of the reconciliation shows the weakness of the Palestinian Authority, and leads one to wonder whether Hamas will take control over Judea and Samaria, as it did over Gaza,” he said in his statement, using the biblical names for the West Bank.

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu instructed the Israeli security establishment to take all necessary measures to ensure the enforcement of Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza amid reports of plans for another international flotilla. Mr. Netanyahu met with his senior ministers and security officials and said that diplomatic efforts should continue to prevent the flotilla from setting out.

David D. Kirkpatrick and Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo, and Fares Akram from Gaza.

Teacher in a Strange Land

The following was written by vet­eran educator Nancy Flanagan, who takes a look at the issue of the “status quo.” This appeared on her Education Week Teacher blog, “Teacher in a Strange Land.” She spent 30 years in a K-12 music classroom in Hartland, Mich, and was named Michigan Teacher of the Year in 1993. She is National Board-certified, and a member of the Teacher Leaders Network. She is now an author and consultant.

By Nancy Flanagan

Take a look at this brief clip of Davis Guggenheim, speaking to what must have been one of hundreds of audiences about the heartbreaking failure of public schools, and oh, coincidentally, some film he’s flacking. A woman in his audience asks how we can get rid of teacher unions–a logical question, since the theoretical framework of “ Waiting for Superman ” is that Unions Protect Bad Teachers Who Ruin Children’s Lives.

Guggenheim hesitates–then says that not all unions are bad. His union, for example, the Directors Guild, protects his important creative rights and his compensation. Growing more enthusiastic, he declares that the reason that teachers’ unions are bad is because they “make policy.” End of clip.

Perfect. Unions that protect the creative rights of rich people (through contractual policy), justified. Unions that protect the due process rights of teachers and aim to improve working conditions in those failing schools–greedy and damaging. And who says so? That well-known expert on labor and education policy, Davis Guggenheim.

Earlier this month another well-known expert on education policy, Bill Gates, was interviewed by NPR (also one of hundreds of media audiences eager for his wisdom) on the subject of class size. The interviewer asks Gates about schools where classrooms are packed with 35 to 40 children–how can that be acceptable? Gates says 40 is too many. But putting 30+ kids in front of a “excellent teacher?” Well, that could be one way to save money and improve education at the same time. Problem solved!

What makes Bill Gates an expert on education policy? Money, evidently. Every nonprofit, university–and union–in the country that needs Gates Foundation money is now willing say that he’s an expert. What I would like to do here is raise my hand and offer Mr. Gates my own considerable and real expertise on the issue of class size. What makes me an expert?

Well, in addition to 30 years of classroom experience, two degrees, National Board Certification and an array of teaching awards, I am certainly the only Education Week Teacher blogger whose average class size hovered around 65 kids. Middle school kids, no less.

As an instrumental music teacher, I commonly handled 70+ students per hour, and one year (a year I do not remember fondly), had 93 students in my first hour Symphonic Band. That’s right, 93 8th graders, all holding noisemakers, at 7:25 a.m.. When it comes to class size, I am a credible, expert witness–the ultimate cost-effective teacher. And here’s what I’d like Mr. Gates to know:

• The size of individual classes matters far less than total student load. It is more “efficient” for a teacher to lecture to large groups of students. But good teachers lecture infrequently, because students actually absorb knowledge through action and interaction. Simply listening to content is wildly inefficient, unless the student is able to apply the new knowledge–through discussion, re-framing, deconstructing concepts, answering questions, receiving feedback, producing documents or performance assessments.

• Therefore, relationships matter a great deal in learning. If learning were as simple as pouring knowledge into someone’s head, like the infamous cartoon figure in “Waiting for Superman,” then class sizes could balloon with no ill effect. But learning a complex skill– like reading or equation-solving–hinges on small group interaction and guided practice.

Students must be willing to try and fail, repeatedly, before approaching competence and mastery. Which also involves trust. Considering these facts, it’s no wonder that the research overwhelmingly indicates that small classes are most critical for very young children, and students who lack adequate attention from caring, competent adults.

• Many people assume that small classes mean fewer discipline problems for teachers. This is patently untrue. Every veteran teacher has had a small class that drove them to distraction–usually due to the mix of kids–and classes where there was barely room to move, but produced a reliable, dynamic learning buzz. The problem is not raw numbers–it’s the energy needed to build the human relationships that lead to lasting growth.

• There is no magic around the number 30, or 18 or 40, when it comes to class size (although I found it interesting that Gates stuck to numbers commonly found in schools and union contracts). Bumping class size limits up from 25 to 30, or 30 to 35–even if every single teacher were “effective” or “excellent” or whatever Bill Gates is calling them, and given a bonus–may save money, but would have little impact on actual learning. Good teachers would re-think their instructional strategies, further subdivide their attention and energy–and decide, in increasing numbers, that no amount of extra money is worth eroding their beliefs and their practice.

• In fact, insistence on standardized numbers is at the heart of what’s wrong in the class size debate. Gates is correct when he says parents would rather have their child in a class of 30 with a terrific teacher than in a class of 18 with a bad teacher (or novice, I would add, given the unequivocal data about the efficacy of first-year teachers). When union contracts prescribe one-size-fits-all numbers, they’re not taking into account teacher experience, student needs, or pedagogical and subject discipline considerations. They’re building walls against putting teachers and students in untenable situations. We can do better.

The class-size solution Bill Gates proposed for improving education is all about cash flow rather than investment in human capital. It does not address the most pressing need of education reform–the dangerous gap between the appalling schools we now have for kids who have no resources and the good schools we have for other children.

Just one more expert viewpoint.

By Valerie Strauss  |  04:00 AM ET, 04/25/2011

“Does Israel have a right to exist?”

What is the legal basis for the State of Israel?

Some ask the question, “Does Israel have a right to exist?” That is not a proper question since Israel does exist, is recognized by the United Nations and many other countries, and is no more subject to being so questioned than is the United States, Japan, or any other country.

Anyone who persists with the question of Israel’s right to exist is one whose agenda is to eliminate Israel and its Jewish inhabitants.

But there is a legal background to the State of Israel. The Declaration of Israel’s Independence, issued at Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948, recites the legal history that led to the founding of Israel as an internationally recognized sovereign state:

  • The land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.
  • In the year 1897 the First Zionist Congress, inspired by Theodor Herzl’s vision of the Jewish State, proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national revival in their own country.
  • This right was acknowledged by the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, and re-affirmed by the Mandate of the League of Nations, which gave explicit international recognition to the historic connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and their right to reconstitute their National Home.
  • On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a Resolution for the establishment of an independent Jewish State in Palestine, and called upon the inhabitants of the country to take such steps as may be necessary on their part to put the plan into effect. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their independent State may not be revoked. It is, moreover, the self-evident right of the Jewish people to be a nation, as all other nations, in its own sovereign State.
  • ACCORDINGLY, WE, the members of the National Council, representing the Jewish people in Palestine and the Zionist movement of the world, met together in solemn assembly today, the day of the termination of the British mandate for Palestine, by virtue of the natural and historic right of the Jewish and of the Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, HEREBY PROCLAIM the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called ISRAEL.

At that point, the State of Israel came into existence. The United States recognized the provisional Jewish government as de facto authority of the Jewish state within minutes. The Soviet Union granted de jure recognition almost immediately in 1948 along with seven other states within the next five days (Guatemala, Byelorussia, the Ukraine, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia).

Since the League of Nations was formally terminated in April 1946, there was a specific UN resolution that preserved the rights of the Jewish people in Palestine (and in Jerusalem particularly). The United Nations, as the successor organization to the League of Nations, adopted Article 80 of the UN Charter, which negated efforts “to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples (emphasis added) or the terms of existing international instruments” at the time of the UN’s creation. This provision carried the British Mandate granted by the League of Nations, including all of its committments to a homeland for the Jewish people, into the framework of international law at the United Nations.

Israel’s success in defending its territory against the invading Arab armies in 1948 made the country an established reality. General elections were held on January 25, 1949: the provisional State Council was replaced by an elected Parliament (Knesset) and the Provisional Government by a regular parliamentary Government. De jure recognition by the United States was extended on January 31, 1949 after the permanent government was sworn in. On January 29, 1949, the former Mandatory Power, Britain, recognized the state of Israel, a step that also recognized the end of British efforts to affect the course of the region’s politics.

In the fall of 1948, Israel had applied for membership in the United Nations but failed to win the necessary majority in the Security Council. In February 1949, Israel renewed its application for membership in the United Nations. On March 4, 1949, the Security Council recommended to the General Assembly that it be admitted. On May 11, Israel was admitted, to become the 59th member. Between January 1, 1949 and May 11. 1949, Israel was recognised by 32 States, in addition to the 20 that had accorded it recognition prior to December 31, 1948. Today Israel has full diplomatic relations with most countries of the world, except portions of the Islamic/Arab block that continue to believe that Israel can somehow be eliminated.

Sources and additional reading on this topic:

“I was in love with the idea of Obama.”


Urgent! The White House announced that in a big speech tomorrow, President Obama will do what no Republican President has been able to do: Put Medicare and Medicaid on the table for potential cuts.

Many former Obama volunteers, donors, and voters are deeply disappointed. A Democratic Congressman said on MSNBC last night that Obama needs to “act like a Democrat.”

Will you sign this urgent pledge, which we’ll deliver to the Obama campaign?

“President Obama: If you cut Medicare and Medicaid benefits for me, my parents, my grandparents, or families like mine, don’t ask for a penny of my money or an hour of my time in 2012. I’m going to focus on electing bold progressive candidates — not Democrats who help Republicans make harmful cuts.” Click here to sign.

Below are some amazing notes from Obama volunteers who worked passionately for the President in 2008.

Many people still want to believe in President Obama. But the White House needs to understand that their actions now will have real consequences for 2012. The level of grassroots enthusiasm will be determined by whether the President fights for bold progressive change — and takes cuts that hurt grandparents, the disabled, and kids firmly off the table.

The White House will absolutely be watching the progress of this petition. And we’ll deliver the pledge signatures to the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago.

Please sign today — then, pass it to others who worked to elect President Obama in 2008.

 


NOTES FROM ACROSS THE NATION:

Susan Carpenter, Obama volunteer from Ohio:

“Like many volunteers on his campaign, I was in love with the idea of Obama. I haven’t given up on him quite yet, but I’m mustering the energy to work on the resistance. He needs to know who we are.”

John Rotolo, Obama volunteer from Florida:

“I’m almost too heartsick to comment…I’m at a loss.”

Barbara Louise Jean, Obama volunteer from Nevada:

“It’s ludicrous to cut Medicare for seniors when Wall Street created this mess without being held accountable. At 69, I’ll be in financial trouble if Medicare benefits are lowered.”

Joelle Barnes, Obama volunteer from Pennsylvania:

“This is like a knife through my heart! This is a Republican thing!”

Suzanne Fair, Obama volunteer from Maryland:

“I know he has to compromise sometimes, but it seems that he is caving to the Republicans far too often. We elected him for real change and I would like to see him stand strong against the corporate rich.”

Margaret Copi, Obama donor from California:

“I contributed more to Obama’s campaign than I have to anything else in my life, but no more dollars from me and definitely not a moment of volunteer time, unless he makes huge shifts and starts to fight for the peoples’ interest.”

Frankie Perdue, Obama volunteer from Colorado:

“I do not think that Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security should be on the negotiating table at all. Have the corporations pay their fair share of taxes.”

Deborah Finn, Obama volunteer from North Carolina:

“This is wrong! We did not elect Obama to have him make cuts in valuable, important programs. He needs to stand up to the Republicans. And he needs to speak to the American people about why it is morally wrong to cut the programs.”

Michaele Bonenberger, Obama volunteer from South Dakota:

“This does not sound at all like the Barak Obama that I worked so hard to get elected in 2008.”

Dotty Hopkins, Obama volunteer from California:

“It makes it hard to gin up enthusiasm for 2012. More like hold your nose and vote again! As a former Obama volunteer, I’m already worrying about my lack of desire to do any campaigning and I’m on our County Central Committee for heaven’s sake.”

The White House needs to hear your voice — sign our pledge today. Then pass it on to others.