Unity at last between Hamas and Fatah!

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“The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both,” Israel’s rightwing leader Netanyahu said in a rather somber mood on television.

The Obama administration retained its back to the wall approach by declaring that Hamas was “a terrorist organization” and that any Palestinian government would have to “renounce violence”, respect past “peace deals” and recognize Israel’s “right to exist”.

As Palestinians celebrate news of the agreement reached between Hamas & Fatah, reports from Israel suggest that the Netanyahu regime is extremely angry and dismayed with President Mahmoud Abbas for daring to defy Israel.

Extensive secret talks between the factions have been hosted by the interim post-Mubarak government in Cairo and included a number of independent Palestinians along with key Egyptian role players.

Details released at a press conference late on Wednesday [April 27] reveal that the groups have reached an understanding on forming a transitional Palestinian unity government and holding future elections.

A Hamas delegation led by Mousa Abu Marzouk and Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmed announced the deal, which took many by surprise.

Since the entire Middle East and North Africa is in “change mode” following the dramatic removal of Tunisia and Egypt’s powerful dictators, it behooves Palestinian leaders to respond to their own internal challenges.

In addition to this climate of revolutions sweeping across the Arabian Peninsula that has inspired both factions to make adaptations, perhaps the biggest single fact is that Fatah is fed up with America’s spineless policies.

Some shocking revelations contained in a current Newsweek article by Dan Ephron point out Abbas’ extreme displeasure with the Obama administration:

“It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze,” Abbas explained. “I said OK, I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with the ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, jump. Three times he did it.”

Abbas also criticized the mediation efforts of Obama’s special envoy, George Mitchell, who has shuttled between Israelis and Palestinians for more than two years. “Every visit by Mitchell, we talked to him and gave him some ideas. At the end we discovered that he did not convey any of these ideas to the Israelis. What does it mean?”

Another telling example cited in Ephron’s interview with the embattled leader of Fatah, deals with threats from Obama and Hilary Clinton to withhold the $475 million in aid if Abbas did not withdraw a UN Security Council resolution demanding that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities.

Ephron relates that for 55 minutes on the phone, Obama first reasoned with and then pressured Abbas to withdraw the resolution. Then the American president politely made what Abbas describes as a “list of sanctions” Palestinians would endure if the vote went ahead. After informing Obama that he wouldn’t withdraw the resolution, Clinton followed up with a 30-minute exhortation of her own. Then more pressure. Lower-level officials phoned several Palestinian influentials in Ramallah and asked them to use their sway over the Palestinian leader.

This account by Ephron provides a number of clues about reasons why Abbas may have accepted some of Hamas’ key demands in order to reconcile and forge a new unity to advance Palestine’s quest for freedom and justice.

The agreement that has been hailed by both sides as “historic” while predictably the Netanyahu regime has reacted with bitter hostility. He has issued an ultimatum to Abbas to choose between Hamas or Israel.

It’s clear that neither Israel nor the Obama administration will tolerate Hamas’ ascendancy given their enormous efforts to destroy and annihilate the Islamic Movement’s undying commitment to free Palestine.

While the prospects for change in the matrix of Israel/Palestine politics are inevitable, it remains to be seen whether Abbas and his Fatah movement will be able to sustain this agreement in the face of pressure and a range of dirty tactics including blackmail.

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