The Guardian 14 February, 2007


New hope for Palestinian unity

A conference in Mecca arranged by the Saudi Arabian king has hammered out an agreement between Hamas and Fatah the two main Palestinian political groups.

The agreement has paved the way for the creation of a unity government with the Hamas leader as Prime Minister, a Fatah representative as his deputy and a distribution of other Cabinet posts. The Interior Minister is to be an independent. This was a contentious appointment as this Minister will control the various armed groups of Palestinians. The new government is to be formed within five weeks.

The new government will "respect" earlier agreements made between the Palestinian Authority and the Israelis which tacitly accept the existence of the Israeli state and retains the earlier agreements for future negotiations with the Israelis.

The leader of Hamas said: "There is a commitment and unity. We will preserve this partnership."

The agreement was celebrated in the Gaza strip and the West Bank. A fish vendor, Mahmoud Qassam said: "For four or five days weíve been holding our breath. We pray to God that this is a permanent agreement, not a temporary truce. We hope this will lead to lifting the siege". (The international economic and political embargo of Palestine imposed by Israel, the European Union and the US when Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2005.)

The Hamas and Fatah leaders left Mecca with a pledge of $US1 billion to ease the poverty and deprivation caused by the Israeli and western blockade.

The agreement does not make a reference to "terror and violence" which was a condition of acceptance of a new government by Israel and the west.

The Israeli government has reacted negatively. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said: "We expect the international community to stick to its own requirements that were stated after the elections which Hamas won."

An article in The Australian (10/2/07) said bluntly: "The deal does not meet international demands for recognition of Israel and renunciation of violence."

The reality is that Israelís Zionist leadership does not intend to alter its 40-year occupation of Palestinian lands, its frequent assassinations, military intrusions, destruction of houses, arrest and jailing of Palestinians who fought against the Israeli occupation and many other crimes.

The establishment of a united Palestinian government is the last thing that the Israelis want and they will do their utmost to disrupt the new agreement by continuing their occupation and use of provocations to disrupt it as they have done repeatedly in the past.

While making an excuse of "terror and violence" they and their western supporters, which includes the Australian government, completely ignore the Israeli aggressions, the occupation and theft of Palestinian land despite repeated United Nations resolutions that Israel withdraw behind its pre-1967 war borders. The western powers have done nothing in 40 years to insist that Israel carry out these UN decisions.

Their real attitude to democracy was also revealed again when they refused to recognise the election of Hamas as the chosen government of the Palestinians. Election results are only accepted when they result in the election of representatives acceptable to the western powers.

The refusal of Hamas to recognise the reality of the Israeli state has been corrected by its acceptance of the agreements made formerly by the Palestinian Authority and Hamasís long-standing ceasefire is the other reality which Israel should for its part respect.

Some time will have to pass before it becomes clear whether the unity agreement will hold and whether the western powers, for their part, will oblige Israel to seize this opportunity to make mutual concessions and take substantial steps towards the resolution of the conflict.

If this does not happen it is certain that the Palestinian people will continue their heroic struggle against apparently overwhelming odds to achieve their own state alongside that of Israel with Israel returning to its pre-war borders.

The military and political defeat of Israel in its war against Lebanon has left it weaker. The Israeli people are substantially divided and many want an end to the conflict. The support for Israelís Prime Minister Ehut Olmert is now at a record low.

Is this enough to force the Israelis to honestly negotiate? Time will tell.

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