By Gene Clancy
Published May 9, 2011 8:53 PM
Thousands of Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank cheered the news that the occupied Palestinian territories had taken a major step toward reconciliation. On April 27 the movements of Hamas and Fatah announced an agreement to unite. In a move that seems to have stunned the Western imperialist diplomatic world, the two groups agreed to create an interim unity government and hold elections within a year.
The agreement, made following secret talks sponsored by the caretaker Egyptian government, was announced at a news conference in Cairo. Referring to each other as “brothers,” the two negotiators declared a new chapter in the Palestinian struggle for independence, which had been hobbled in recent years by the split between the Fatah-run West Bank and Hamas-run Gaza.
The deal highlighted Egypt’s evolving foreign policy, its increasing regional influence and its changing relationship with Israel. Spurred on by the Egyptian mass movement, the new Egyptian government has pursued Palestinian negotiations aggressively; has recognized the Muslim Brotherhood, which has deep ties to Hamas; and is reconsidering whether to go forward with a deal to provide natural gas to Israel. It has also asserted a friendlier attitude toward Iran.
The agreement is also an unmistakable sign of the importance of the Arab revolution that has swept the Middle East and North Africa. As Azzam al-Ahmad, the Fatah negotiator, said after the news conference in Cairo: “The changes in the Arab region and the political upheaval contributed to reducing the pressure on the Palestinian factions, and by pressure I mean the negative kind of pressure.” (New York Times, April 27)
The U.S.-supported state of Israel was quick to respond to news of the agreement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a unity agreement would put an end to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. He threatened the PA, saying it “must choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas.” President Shimon Peres said the agreement would prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and “sabotage any chance for peace.” (Washington Post, April 28)
Actually, the Israeli Zionist regime and the U.S. imperialist government have systematically sabotaged any and all efforts of the Palestinians and others to achieve peace in what is, after all, the Palestinian homeland.
Hamas won the 2007 elections in the occupied territories. The Israelis promptly imprisoned the new Parliament as the U.S. cut off all foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority. Enormous pressure was put on the PA leadership to cave in to Israeli demands. As they dragged out the U.S.-sponsored talks, the Israelis increased the pace of their illegal settlements on the West Bank while waging a cruel war and blockade on Gaza.
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 its anger over the U.S. veto in February of a United Nations Security Council resolution opposing Israeli settlement construction had encouraged Fatah to come to an agreement with Hamas. The Islamic group, he said, was motivated to get closer to Fatah by regional changes — the revolutions sweeping the Arab world. (New York Times, April 27)
“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 agreement, 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.”
At the news conference Fatah negotiator Ahmad recalled the recent chants of young Palestinian demonstrators:
“To all the Palestinian youth who went out saying, ‘The people want to end the division’ and ‘The people want to end the occupation,’ we say what you demanded was achieved today.”
He said that Israeli officials had warned Palestinian Authority President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas not to collaborate with Hamas, but “he did not heed the warning, and he responded, ‘Yes, we want Hamas.’”
Another expert summed up this defeat for Washington’s maneuvers to divide the Palestinians very succinctly: “It’s essentially a great blow for American policy,” said Nathan Brown, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. (cnn.com, April 27) As proof of that, Salam Fayyad, who had been prime minister of the West Bank and was seen as closest to the U.S. of all the PA authorities, will not be part of the interim government.
Progressives around the world hailed this new step in the Palestinian struggle and vowed to redouble their efforts to force an end to the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza, the illegal settlements on Palestinian land, and the oppressive occupation of the Palestinian territories.