Palestinian unity: a prerequisite for progress

Amid the unrest and civilian killings in Syria, Yemen,  Libya and Pakistan – and despite many  reasonable or partisan doubts expressed – many readers of this website will join in welcoming the Egyptian-Turkish mediated accord in Palestine.

The first news came when the Financial Times reported that a government official in Cairo said  Nabil al-Arabi, Egypt’s new foreign minister, held meetings with representatives of Hamas and Fatah soon after his appointment last month, making it clear that he “wanted peace, not a peace process” and that Palestinian unity was a prerequisite for any progress. 

Representatives of Hamas and Fatah later signed a reconciliation pact in Egypt on May 4th, in the presence of the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who was involved in efforts to bridge differences between the two groups, ending the political and territorial divide between the Gaza Strip, ruled by Hamas, and the West Bank, ruled by Fatah.

President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, held talks in the evening.

Gaza News reports that, in a symbolic step, Hamas allowed Fatah-controlled Palestine TV to broadcast from Gaza for the first time since the 2007 takeover. The station’s Gaza correspondent, Adel Zaanoun, discussed the excitement that Gazans felt about unity and invited Ismail Radwan, a Hamas leader, on to the program.

Israel feels threatened

Israel, however, has voiced sharp criticism of the reconciliation effort, arguing that it could lead to a Hamas takeover of the West Bank and so threaten Israel’s security.

The Financial Times reports the dismay of Israeli diplomats as most western statements did not mention the Quartet conditions – laid down by mediators, the U.S., the EU, the United Nations and Russia. These conditions are often cited as the test Hamas has to meet to win international acceptance, demanding that any Palestinian government recognises Israel, renounces violence and accepts all previous agreements and obligations.

UN and EU give qualified support

The UN  said last week that it “strongly supports” all efforts aimed at reunifying Gaza and the West Bank, while Lady Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said she would discuss the draft accord with other European leaders:

“The EU has consistently called for peace and reconciliation, under the authority of President Abbas, leading to an end to the division between the West Bank and Gaza and in support of greater stability and security in the region.”

What next?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the accord ended “four black years” that had hurt national Palestinian interests and he would soon visit Hamas-held Gaza Strip.

The unified Palestine authority intends to form a joint caretaker government and Moshir Al-Masry, a Gaza-based Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said in an interview: “One year after signing the pact, we expect to conduct legislative and presidential elections.”

In September the unified Palestine authority is to bid for UN recognition of statehood. 

We hope for a good outcome for all concerned.

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RESPONSE

Post recirculated to the mailing list of Surrey-based Al Muttaqiin charity.

From Mumbai, Maj. Gen. D’Souza writes re Palestinian unity: a prerequisite for progress – “Absolutely no doubt on that score”.

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