Palestinians optimistic on Hamas-Fatah unity deal
Palestinians see the Hamas-Fatah unity deal to be signed in Cairo today as strengthening their push for statehood. But they say that reconciliation will be a year-long project at least.
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Azzam Abu Baker, a Fatah official, says the security coordination with Israel is a necessary fact of life aimed at preventing Israel’s military from overrunning Palestinian cities in the West Bank. As for Hamas’ armed militia, he asserted that the unity agreement doesn’t allow either side to act unilaterally against Israel.Skip to next paragraph
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Prof. Ezbeidi says that merging two opposing security doctrines is only one of a myriad of issues that could doom the agreement. But the yawning divide is clear even to the Palestinian public.
"It is impossible to have two big heads under one hat," says Said Saleh, a construction worker building a new office for the Palestinian prime minister. "Unity is a dream of every Palestinian that could end up in a nightmare."
Arab Spring gave impetus for reconciliation
The announcement last week of a reconciliation deal came as surprise. Multiple rounds of negotiations since Hamas’ takeover of Gaza in 2007 have failed.
Palestinians have become cynical about their domestic politics, accusing both parties of focusing on narrow interests rather than the national good. Recent public opinion surveys conducted before the deal was announced found that a majority didn’t expect a reconciliation in the near future.
Regional turmoil, however, changed the playing field. Grass-roots youth movements in the Middle East stirred up Palestinian street protests in March, which politicians credit with raising pressure on both parties – despite the thin turnout. One organizer vowed to lobby for a representative of young Palestinians in the new interim government.
"We think of ourselves as the silent majority that went out into the street," says Bashar Azzeh, a 31-year-old entrepreneur who will be traveling from the West Bank to Cairo when the reconciliation deal is signed on Wednesday.
Another factor that may have contributed to the new push for unity is the fact that negotiations have been moribund since last September. With no active peace talks, differences between Fatah and Hamas – which doesn't support the peace talks – are easier to overlook.
Now, as PA President Mahmoud Abbas's government pursues official recognition of Palestinian sovereignty from the United Nations, they can present a united front – thereby making their case more compelling.
A road map for full reconciliation
Despite high hopes for a resolution, Mr. Azzeh says that many Palestinians remain uneasy about what happens next. The Egyptian-brokered agreement calls for elections within a year, a joint committee to coordinate security issues between the sides, a temporary government of technocrats, and for a release of political prisoners.
But much more needs to be done to mend Palestinian fences. There needs to be a follow-up agreement to implement unity. Borrowing a term from Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, Azzeh called for a "road map" for Palestinian reconciliation.
"The devil is in the details," he says. "We have many problems. We have to work on the political level, the social level, and the economic level. If there is no road map there, is no reconciliation."