Editorial : Fatah-Hamas accord - Friday 29th April 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/29/fatah-hamas-accord.html

ONE fails to understand the rationale behind the immediate American and Israeli rejection of Wednesday`s decision by Fatah and Hamas to bury the hatchet and forge unity by democratic means. At the height of what has been billed the `Arab spring`, Fatah and Hamas have taken a step that was long overdue: they have decided to hold elections to be conducted by a government comprising independents, and unite the West Bank and Gaza under one administration. The existence of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and the Fatah-controlled West Bank as two independent cantons has done tremendous harm to the Palestinian people`s struggle for achieving sovereignty on their soil. The split between the post-Arafat Fatah and Islamist Hamas followed the latter`s victory in the January 2006 parliamentary election. However, the elected government was never allowed to function.
Israel blocked $50m of the PA`s revenue share, with America and the European Union following suit by cutting off all non-humanitarian assistance. The aid denial made it difficult for the Hamas government to pay salaries to the PA`s bloated civilian bureaucracy. And when the Arab League, Iran and Russia decided to go to the PA`s help, western banks refused under pressure to undertake transactions. The situation worsened when violent clashes broke out between Hamas and Fatah supporters, and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, ignoring the Hamas majority, asked an independent, Salam Fayyad, to form the government, issuing a decree that the prime minister did not need to take a vote of confidence from the Palestinian legislative council. Exploiting the Hamas-Fatah split, Israel has unleashed its armed fury on the Gaza Strip from time to time, the last such attack in 2008-09 killing nearly 1,500 Palestinians, 70 per cent of them civilians.
While all previous attempts at unity failed, on Wednesday the two sides clinched a deal brokered by the new Egyptian regime. The accord provides for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held by a neutral government, thus paving the way for a united government having the mandate of the Palestinian people. That Israel and the US should immediately adopt a negative attitude towards the electoral process is indeed unfortunate. If Hamas wins an election again, as it did in 2006, the world needs to accept the Palestinian people`s verdict. Israel`s stance that the PA can have peace either with Hamas or Tel Aviv shows a desire to perpetuate and exploit Palestinian differences. Hamas has indirectly recognised Israel by accepting the two-state solution. Accepted as a legitimate player in the Arab-Israeli conflict Hamas can play a positive role in the peace process and help achieve a Palestinian state through peaceful means.

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