Pales­tini­ans unite

Fatah and Ha­mas join forces. Ready to talk?

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Local News -

The Pales­tini­ans ap­pear to have taken an im­por­tant step to­ward heal­ing the di­vi­sion between their two prin­ci­pal po­lit­i­cal move­ments, Fatah and Ha­mas.

Af­ter two days of meet­ings in Cairo — pre­sum­ably bro­kered by the Egyp­tians, who con­tinue to have an im­por­tant role to play in the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian is­sue — lead­ers of Fatah and Ha­mas an­nounced on Thurs­day a re­stored level of co­op­er­a­tion and unity between the two Pales­tinian or­ga­ni­za­tions. They have been at for­mal odds with each other since 2007, when Ha­mas won Pales­tinian leg­isla­tive elec­tions and, when Fatah then did not per­mit Ha­mas to as­sume rule of Gaza and the West Bank un­der the so-called Pales­tinian Author­ity, Ha­mas kicked Fatah out of Gaza, shat­ter­ing in­tra-Pales­tinian co­op­er­a­tion.

Since then, in ef­fect, Fatah un­der PA pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas has ruled in the West Bank, and Ha­mas has run the show in Gaza. The West Bank is in­creas­ingly rid­dled by Is­raeli set­tlers, now num­ber­ing more than half a mil­lion, and set­tle­ments. Gaza is, in ef­fect, a cage for some 2 mil­lion of the world’s 12 mil­lion Pales­tini­ans, sur­rounded by the Is­raelis. Gaza, in­creas­ingly a hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter, has elec­tric­ity two to four hours per day and sky-high un­em­ploy­ment.

The di­vi­sions among the Pales­tini­ans have given the Is­raelis the log­i­cal ar­gu­ment for not ne­go­ti­at­ing with them mean­ing­fully — that the Pales­tini­ans are deeply di­vided among them­selves, and thus are un­able to present a co­her­ent po­si­tion on the other side of the ta­ble in talks. It is also the case that Mr. Ab­bas, now 82 and in weak health, is un­pop­u­lar among the Pales­tini­ans. He com­pleted his elected term as PA pres­i­dent in 2009 and has stayed on by de­fault. He would have dif­fi­culty main­tain­ing that he speaks for the Pales­tini­ans in ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The Cairo unity talks pro­duced a state­ment of agreed-upon Pales­tinian ob­jec­tives, which in­clude an end to Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion and the cre­ation of an in­de­pen­dent, sov­er­eign state with Jerusalem as its cap­i­tal. Leg­isla­tive, pres­i­den­tial and na­tional coun­cil elec­tions are pledged within one year. An in­terim Fatah-Ha­mas govern­ment would be cre­ated prior to the elec­tions. Three thou­sand PA po­lice would be de­ployed to Gaza sub­se­quent to the sig­na­ture of the ac­cord, in­clud­ing to staff the Gaza-Egyp­tian border post, Gaza’s only out­let.

Let’s see. Such rec­on­cil­i­a­tions have been promised be­fore, only to fall apart. The Pales­tini­ans also need new lead­er­ship in place of Mr. Ab­bas, through elec­tions or by other means. More con­tem­po­rary pos­si­ble lead­ers in­clude PA prime min­is­ter Rami Ham­dal­lah, who is part of Fatah; Ha­mas leader Is­mail Haniyeh; and the pop­u­lar Mar­wan Bagh­outi, held in an Is­raeli prison.

The world and Is­rael as well as the Pales­tini­ans con­tinue to have a stake in a rea­son­able, two-state res­o­lu­tion of the now 69-year-old prob­lem in the for­mer Pales­tine. For the Is­raelis, it is the long-term preser­va­tion of a demo­cratic Jewish state. For the Pales­tini­ans, it is self-govern­ment for 12 mil­lion peo­ple. For the world, it is an im­por­tant el­e­ment in a durable peace in the Mid­dle East.

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