Wednesday, April 27, 2011

More on the Hamas-Fatah Deal - and Syria

As reported in the NY Times:
Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said that the Palestinian Authority’s failure to reach an agreement with Israel and the anger following an American veto of a United Nations Security Council resolution against Israeli settlement construction in February encouraged Fatah to come to an agreement with Hamas. The Islamic group, he said, was motivated to get closer to Fatah by regional changes, especially the protests in Syria, where Hamas’s politburo is based. If President Bashar al-Assad of Syria were to fall, Hamas might no longer be able to use Syria as a base or enjoy the protection, money and arms the country has extended.

“We have ended a painful period in the history of the Palestinian people where Palestinian division had prevailed,” Moussa Abu Marzouk, a representative of Hamas who negotiated the deal, said at the Cairo news conference. “We gave the occupation a great opportunity to expand the settlements because of this division. Today we turn this page and open a new page.”

Again, it's difficult to predict that this agreement will hold, given the depth and duration of the tensions between the two.  But the situation now is markedly different compared to any time for the last few years; hopes are high; and especially notable, the young people who comprise an increasingly large percentage of the population in both the West Bank and Gaza seem to be insisting that the two groups find a way to make this work.

Major problem, of course, is that Fatah and the West Bank have relied on funding from the US that likely will evaporate if Fatah indeed sticks to this deal with Hamas.  And notably, Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian official most beloved by the US (including Tom Friedman, who rhapsodized about him, for good reason, less than a year ago), evidently will be allowed no part in the unity government, at Hamas' insistence.  Hamas undoubtedly views Fayyad as a collaborator in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, even though his efforts have brought a modicum of prosperity there as well as a much improved security force (criticized by some, though, as essentially doing Israel's bidding). His intention was to build the institutions of a state in the West Bank, looking to the day when . . . .   But when Israel meanwhile continued its colonization of the West Bank, gobbling up more and more of the land needed to actually make a state, it's not difficult to envision that some might see Fayyad as Netanyahu's dupe, diverting attention from the reality of the ongoing, expanding occupation.

FOOTNOTE: I cannot recommend more highly the new piece posted at the National Interest by Franck Salameh - a lyrical, historically rich examination of Syria's cultural diversity and how the Assad regime's embrace of Arab nationalism obscured it.  And speaking of the regime: an interesting development = around 200 Baath party members are reported to have resigned in protest of Bashar al-Assad's crackdown.

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