To Israel’s disapproval, officials say that come Monday an announcement will be made by Palestinian authorities about the formation of a unity government in Palestine between long time rival factions Hamas and Fatah. The decision to unite under a single Palestinian government is believed to be a move to strengthen Palestine’s influence in negotiations with long time common enemy Israel as the nearly 70 year old conflict continues with little to no progress.
The Gaza Strip and West Bank, once common allies in their strife with Israel were torn apart by infighting. Hamas, which drove President Mahmoud Abbas into the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has been running a rival government for nearly seven years, on the other end of Israel, in the Gaza Strip. The political split came just after Hamas broke a shaky ceasefire with the Israeli government, resuming rocket attacks in May of 2007. Officials are worried that Palestine’s induction of Hamas into the political wing of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority could create more friction with Israel than desired.
Hamas is designated as a terrorist group by Israel and the West and Israeli officials have warned against the unifying of the two sides. Officials say that Israel will not make deals with a Palestine government backed by Hamas, the most fundamental of Palestinian factions that fight against the country. Hamas has openly vowed to destroy the Israeli state.
Despite Israel’s threats President Mahmoud Abbas says that the unifying of the West Bank and the Gaza strip is essential to the potential peace process. Observers say that a divided Palestine will only worsen the prospect for stability in the region if a peace deal were signed by Fatah in the West Bank and not Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The push to unify the territories under a single leadership comes as new ground for western officials who are not sure if they should deal with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas.
Fatah officials met with Hamas leaders on Monday to decide on the Cabinet lineup for the government, a “temporary government of technocrats” to administer until the general elections in 2015. A mixture of Hamas and Fatah leaders are expected.
Rami Hamdallah, prime minister of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, is likely to keep his position, becoming head of the unity government, while President Mahmoud Abbas had expressed interest in tacking on prime minister to his title, but sources say he seems hesitant as of the past couple of days.
Israel’s ability to quell Palestinian progress was strengthened by the internal rift between Hamas and Fatah. Officials now say a unified government poses a much larger bulwark to Israeli aggression and could strengthen Palestine’s claim to legitimacy. Other officials say the absorbing of Hamas into the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority will only hurt Palestine’s ambitions for statehood, with western nations designating the group as a terrorist organization. Still, many Palestinians in the region say it is a step forward in the right direction, and a chance for Palestinians to unite themselves once again.
by John Amaruso