The new Palestinian unity government creates a real problem for Israel. It will be headed by a senior Hamas figure, Ismail Haniyeh. Moreover, it will not recognize Israel and does not pretend to meet the Quartet's conditions, as one Hamas leader said.
Yet the same time, it is not a Hamas government, and Hamas will not have a majority in the cabinet. The finance minister-designate, Salem Fayad, is the White House's darling. The foreign minister-designate, academic Ziad Abu Amar, has lectured at many American universities and does not have extremist positions on Israel. And the interior minister, who commands the security forces, will be an independent rather than a Hamas member, though he will be appointed on Hamas' recommendation.
Under these circumstances, Israel and the U.S. will have trouble demanding that the international economic boycott of the Palestinian government remain in place.
The other members of the Quartet - the European Union, the United Nations and Russia - have been annoyed for some time by Washington's opposition to a unity government, and once one is in place, in another few weeks, some or all of these parties are liable to announce the resumption of relations with the Palestinian Authority.
Although Hamas leader Khaled Meshal and Fatah's leader, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, accepted the principles of the Mecca agreement about 10 days ago, only this week did their last doubts vanish, when they realized that the Mecca summit was their last chance to end the internecine warfare in Gaza. Almost 100 Palestinians have been killed in this fighting over the last two months, and the combination of the violence and their sense of losing control led Abbas to brave American displeasure and Meshal to abandon his dream of exclusive Hamas control.
The agreement gave something to each of them: Meshal did not have to abandon Hamas' political platform and recognize Israel, while Abbas got a cabinet Hamas does not control. But many Palestinians are angry at both men.
No one reading the agreement could fail to wonder why it was delayed for many bloody weeks over a mere word or two: For instance, the final text states that the government will "respect" previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements; Abbas originally wanted "adhere to."
In Gaza, residents rejoiced that the civil war had ended. But the celebrations might be premature. With armed militias in Gaza, some lunatic could easily rekindle the fighting. And those who lost relatives will not so quickly abandon their desire for revenge.
Pacifying Gaza will be the new government's first task. But, at best, it will be difficult - and it may prove impossible.
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