The reconciliation agreement signed between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo on Wednesday is a source of hope for the Palestinians. The deal, based on understandings crafted already in 2011, provides a gradual solution for the issues in dispute between the organizations.
The administrative issues will be addressed first — a fully functioning Palestinian government and administration will be set up, and the Gaza police force will be rehabilitated. At a later stage the sides will discuss state affairs such as holding elections, setting up a government and renewing the Palestinian diplomatic framework.
A festive air combined with skepticism prevailed in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip following the deal. This is no surprise, considering the Palestinian people have had their fill of broken promises in the past decade. The next few months will be the test for implementing the agreement. Both organizations’ speakers stressed in their statement on Wednesday that the scope of Egypt’s involvement was different this time. The Egyptians are not merely “sponsors” to the reconciliation agreement, but guarantors of its implementation.
The commitment of Fatah, Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian factions will now be put to the test. The Palestinian government is expected to start functioning already in the coming weeks and act to improve the situation in the Gaza Strip. It will be tested on issues such as improvement in freedom of expression and freedom of political activity, both in the West Bank and in the Strip.
The international community, mainly the United States and Arab states, have an important role in the process. They must provide financial assistance to alleviate the population’s distress and lead a move to ensure the Palestinians self-determination on the basis of the principles of the international community and the Arab peace initiative.
Israel and its prime minister must understand that the key to a regional arrangement lies in the Palestinian arena. If Washington and Israel are really interested in advancing a regional drive that yields results, they must strengthen the Palestinian Authority and its leader and enable them to show the Palestinian people the prospect of a peace agreement, which will ensure a better future. Otherwise the current reconciliation will also remain an internal issue that will not have any impact on the end of the conflict.
Israel’s reserved response to the deal, the statement that Israel “will examine the developments and act accordingly,” is a small, positive step. It is to be hoped that the developments will be examined in a constructive way. This is one of those moments when good will and support are necessary, even on the part of a rightist government.
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