BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Persian Pashto Turkish French
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: Middle East  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 15:02 GMT
Analysis: Palestinian factions' truce talks
Funeral for Hamas member
Radical groups have grown in popularity

The Palestinian faction talks in Cairo are the latest in a series of attempts by Egypt and European diplomats to broker a ceasefire and forge unity among the disparate groups.

From the Palestinian side, the driving force behind these talks is Mahmoud Abbas, a senior Palestinian Authority official.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad do not want to give up suicide bombings, because they are popular among Palestinians and have been helping these groups become more powerful

The initial plan was to help strengthen the Israeli left ahead of forthcoming elections. It may be too late for that now, but Mr Abbas also wants the factions to unify their ranks before a possible war with Iraq.

He and many other Palestinians believe Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could use the war as a pretext to invade Gaza and destroy the rest of the authority, already teetering on the brink of collapse after two years of conflict.

Mr Abbas argues that the Palestinians would have to stop all military activity in order to secure international backing to prevent such a scenario.

Opposition

Mr Abbas faces two blocks of opposition.

The first is from within Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's own Fatah movement. Its political leaders support a halt to suicide bombings in Israel, but will not give up the right to armed resistance inside the Occupied Territories.

They also say they will not be able to control their militias if Israel continues its military activity in Palestinian areas.

Secondly, there is opposition from the Islamic groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Neither want to give up suicide bombings, ostensibly because they are a powerful weapon against Israel, but practically because they are popular among Palestinians and have been helping these groups become more powerful.

Year-long moratorium

Is there any room for compromise?

The Egyptians are proposing a year long Palestinian moratorium on violence. Most observers agree that is impossible unless Israel also holds back its army, and they agree it is unlikely that Mr Sharon would do so.

In the interests of unity, the factions might accept a temporary halt to suicide bombings. But such an agreement would probably be vague and conditional - maybe some kind of promise to focus on military targets in exchange for an end to Israeli incursions, house demolitions and assassinations.

A big question at the Cairo negotiations will probably be what Hamas gets out of this.

Simply by participating in the talks, the group has received diplomatic recognition from Europe and Arab countries. It may use this to argue for a greater role in the Palestinian leadership.

And where does Mr Arafat stand?

He has made it clear that he is against suicide bombings, but sources close to him say he does not believe a ceasefire is possible under the circumstances.

But in his usual style, he is standing back and watching to see where the process goes.


Key stories

Profiles

FACTFILE

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

03 Dec 01 | profiles
16 Nov 02 | profiles
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes