Palestinians aim for unity

09 May 2011

Reconciliation agreement has already lasted longer than the 2008 deal

Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are re-assessing their positions

On 5 May, Palestine’s two largest factions met in Cairo to sign a reconciliation deal to bring an end to almost five years of often bloody division. Such rapprochements have been seen before, but as MEED went to press on 12 May, the agreement had already lasted longer than the previous attempt in 2008. Signed in Sanaa, that agreement collapsed after barely two days.

The upheavals across the Middle East and North Africa have drawn many of the headlines away from the Occupied Territories. But they are having an effect there too. Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have all scrambled to re-assess their positions – old friends and sponsors may not be secure for much longer and old foes could find themselves more forgiving now. The fall of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has refocused Cairo’s position towards their Palestinian neighbours across the Rafah border crossing in Gaza.

At the core of the agreement is the formation of an interim government made up of unaffiliated technocrats, paving the way for Palestinian Authority elections in May next year. For all the talk of unilateral declarations of statehood, no one in the West Bank or Gaza thinks it will be an easy road ahead. Israel has blasted the deal and the US Congress is already threatening to starve it. But outside these circles, there is support for some forward movement in this intractable conflict.

Their status as victims of occupation is undeniable, but the Palestinians have in part made some bad decisions. The latest came in a statement that was sure to upset many, both in the Arab world and the West. Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas leader, described the recently killed Osama bin Laden as an ‘Arab holy warrior’.

The reconciliation deal, coming on the back of the Arab Spring, is certainly one of the better decisions made in Ramallah and Gaza. For 63 years, many aspects of the fate of the Palestinians have been in the hands of their occupiers. Their unity should not be one of them.

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