Pales­tini­ans forge unity gov­ern­ment

Fatah, Ha­mas, Is­lamic Ji­had ink deal

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - SHANNON EBRAHIM GROUP FOR­EIGN EDI­TOR

PALESTINIAN fac­tions reached a his­toric agree­ment in Moscow on Tues­day to form a gov­ern­ment of na­tional unity (GNU). Af­ter three day of in­tense ne­go­ti­a­tions in Moscow, key Palestinian fac­tions, which in­cluded Fatah, Ha­mas and Is­lamic Ji­had among oth­ers, agreed to unite.

The or­gan­i­sa­tions will form a new Na­tional Coun­cil, which will in­clude Pales­tini­ans in ex­ile and hold elec­tions.

This is the first time in years that the move­ments have man­aged to put aside their dif­fer­ences and move to­wards a com­mon Palestinian vi­sion.

“It is sig­nif­i­cant that Is­lamic Ji­had is part of the process as they could have been se­ri­ous spoil­ers,” Mo­hamed Dan­gor, ad­viser on the Mid­dle East to the South African gov­ern­ment told In­de­pen­dent Me­dia.

“The agree­ment can be seen as a re­ac­tion to Trump­ism and the world mov­ing to the right, es­pe­cially France and Ger­many.

“This is an im­por­tant de­vel­op­ment as it builds on the work done in South Africa last year,” Dan­gor com­mented.

The Palestinian fac­tions agreed that over the next two months, new mem­bers would be elected to the Na­tional Coun­cil and the sides would form a new gov­ern­ment.

An in­ter­na­tional peace con­fer­ence held in Paris on Sun­day, a re­cent UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion crit­i­cis­ing Is­raeli set­tle­ments, and Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion are seen as cat­a­lysts be­hind the agree­ment.

The role of Rus­sia in bro­ker­ing the agree­ment is sig­nif­i­cant given its in­ter­est in play­ing a ma­jor role in the Mid­dle East and the Is­raeli-Palestinian peace process.

It is also sig­nif­i­cant that the agree­ment was reached just be­fore the in­au­gu­ra­tion of US pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump.

“Rus­sia is well-placed to play a role in the Mid­dle East peace process,” said Palestinian Am­bas­sador to South Africa, Hashem Al­da­jani. “Rus­sia has al­ways sup­ported Palestinian rights and a two-state solution.”

His­tor­i­cally, peace ne­go­ti­a­tions have been dom­i­nated by the US, but the in­ter­ven­tion of Rus­sia sig­nals a move away from a US-dom­i­nated peace process.

To op­er­a­tionalise the cre­ation of a GNU, the fac­tions met last week in Beirut to dis­cuss and pre­pare for elec­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to Al­da­jani, the unity gov­ern­ment will in­clude most of the main Palestinian groups.

The nu­mer­ous strate­gic meet­ings of Palestinian fac­tions held in South Africa last year un­doubt­edly con­trib­uted to lay­ing the ba­sis for unity, as it brought the var­i­ous fac­tions to­gether over week-long meet­ings at which they dis­cussed their dif­fer­ences.

The South African non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion In Trans­for­ma­tion Ini­tia­tive (ITI) hosted th­ese meet­ings in Cape Town, and was pos­i­tive about the progress the fac­tions had made in com­ing to­gether.

“We would like to be­lieve that South Africa con­trib­uted to this emerg­ing Palestinian unity even if in a mod­est way,” said Mo­hammed Bhabha, one of the di­rec­tors of ITI. “The shut­tle diplo­macy of ITI be­tween the var­i­ous group­ings cre­ated space for them to in­ter­act.”

One of the ob­jec­tives of the Palestinian meet­ings in Cape Town had been to share the South African ex­pe­ri­ence of ne­go­ti­a­tions and tran­si­tion to democ­racy with the Palestinian po­lit­i­cal for­ma­tions.

Ha­mas and Fatah have been at log­ger­heads since Ha­mas won Palestinian elec­tions in 2006, and was pre­vented from gov­ern­ing the whole of the Palestinian ter­ri­to­ries. Mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions in the West Bank and Gaza strip were post­poned last year af­ter the high court ruled they should only be held in the West Bank, gov­erned by Fatah.

The prospects of Palestinian unity cre­ates an op­por­tu­nity for ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Is­raelis as there will be greater clar­ity on whom the ne­go­ti­at­ing part­ner is.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

A demon­stra­tor in Gaza City holds a Palestinian flag dur­ing a rally call­ing on rivals Ha­mas and Fatah to end their po­lit­i­cal divi­sion.

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