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Palestine united - but what next?

Palestine united - but what next?
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In territory as small and fragmented as that given to Palestinians, any division was bound to weaken its diplomatic bargaining strength. Last March a huge demonstration in Gaza and the West Bank, called for an end to the long-running feud between Hamas and the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The victory of Hamas in the parliamentary elections of 2006 in Gaza complicated the situation. It lead to a national unity government between President Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh, the nominated prime minister, but that was short-lived.

In June 2007 clashes erupted between pro-Fatah and Hamas factions. In effect a mini-civil war in which over 100 people lost their lives and which cemented the division between the two movements. Hamas took control of Gaza, forcing Fatah out of the territory.

But the roots of the division go much deeper. Hamas was created in 1987 by Sheik Yassin after the first intifada, or uprising. Fatah was founded by Yasser Arafat in 1965 as a political movement, rather than as simply a reaction to a specific event.

The Oslo Accords, signed in Washington in 1993 between Yasser Arafat and Israel’s Shimon Peres, were the first Israeli-Palestinian agreements that laid the foundations for the peace process. But Hamas has rejected the accords to this day and still does not recognise Israel.

Years of division has done nothing to help the chances of their voices being heard. They should have more success if they can speak with one voice according to Uzi Rabi is a Middle East expert at Tel Aviv University.

He said: “Fatah and Hamas are going to benefit a lot if they can present a united front, and this helps out in putting much pressure on Israel and United States.”

But for Israel and the international community Hamas remains a terrorist organisation. Reconciliation is one thing, its practical implementation is another.

Former Israeli negotiator Yossi Bellin said there are still big questions: “What we have to know is whether Hamas is going to have any say in the security of the West Bank and whether the government or Hamas in that case is going to allow Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President to negotiate on peace with Israel.”

After the recent violent clashes it is predictable that security will be the Israelis’ chief concern. It may be that reaching an accord between Palestinians, could make it more difficult to make peace with other countries.

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