Saturday, May 07, 2011

Is the Fatah-Hamas Agreement good for Palestine, the USA, and yes, even Israel ?

Why the Fatah-Hamas Agreement is Good for Palestine, the USA, and yes, even Israel

Ibrahim Ramey

Although the international press and public opinion were fixated this week on the story of the killing of Osama bin Laden, a political event of even greater magnitude was emerging in the Middle East: the signing of a historic accord between the Hamas-led government of Gaza and Fatah, the governing political movement in the West Bank of Palestine. This coalition agreement, while not yet completely finalized, signals the possible end of the internecine warfare between these two rival Palestinian political parties. It is also likely that, as Prime Minister Abbas of the has stated, that the unity agreement will give the Palestinian people the necessary political credibility to demand recognition of an independent Palestinian state, and further press for the demand that the Israeli occupation of their land be brought to an end.

Of course, the reason for the vehement Israeli objection is the fact that Hamas is included as a partner in the unity deal. The animosity between Hamas and the Israeli government, especially the Likud coalition that is currently in power, is very deep. And for the moment at least, the U.S. administration, which pretty much dances to the tune of Prime Minister Netanyahu, has not given any indication that the political accord in Palestine is a good thing.

But this agreement, signed in Cairo and fully supported by progressive democratic elements in Egypt, is, indeed, a very good thing for all.
Why? The simple, logical answer is that any agreement that limits or prevents internal violence among the Palestinian people is a real step in the direction of political maturity and wisdom. Indeed, the youth of Palestine - including both Gaza and the West bank - have been staging political protests for months, demanding that their leaders put down their rhetoric and their guns, and come together in a spirit of cooperation. Now it is happening, and lives will be saved, and a new political dynamic may actually emerge that replaces violence with the architecture of a plural democracy.

And, I suspect, one consequence of this new agreement may well be an increase in the flow of international material aid to the Palestinian people, aid that will build schools, roads, hospitals, and the infrastructure that is so badly needed to help lift the occupied territories out of suffocating poverty.

The Fatah-Hamas rapprochement offers a glimmer of hope that an end to violence just might be a catalyst for the social and economic development that must underpin any real peace and justice in the region. The Israelis have clearly demonstrated their overwhelming military superiority vis-a-vis both Gaza and the West Bank, but now they must recognize that the time has come to end their occupation, and for the sea change of democracy that will benefit the Palestinian people and yes, the people of the State of Israel as well. Guns and bombs will not solve this problem; only reason and good will can do this. When development trumps desperation, people get busy with building their lives, rather that tearing down the lives of others.

Of course, the agreement is not yet fully operational, and the real test for the people of Gaza and the West Bank may be looming ahead in 2012, when elections are scheduled to be held. But I believe that a great majority of the people of Palestine, and the world, will be better off if this agreement is successful.

As far as the issue of "terrorism" is concerned, I believe that the people of Israel do, in fact, have the absolute right to live in safety and security. But Mr. Netanyahu should know, along with President Obama, that security must be mutual, and that the primary impediment to security in the region is the continuation of an Israeli occupation that is both illegal in terms of international, and immoral in terms of moral law.

No one should support the possibility of more rocket fire from Gaza, and the Palestinian leadership that emerges from the unity talks must work to insure peace in Palestine and ending any (largely ineffective) armed attacks on Israel. But the best antidote to this particular form of violence is the building and strengthening of genuine Palestinian democracy-which must, by definition, also include the government of Gaza that is currently in power. And on this point, the United States could implement, at least in part, the security guarantee that both Israelis and Palestinians need, and deserve, if necessary the objection of the vehement pro-Israel political lobby in the United States.

It's time for the U.S. to materially and strategically support this bold movement toward real Palestinian political unity and democracy. The power and political prestige of the United States should be used to convince Mr. Netanyahu and his government that this is a real opportunity not only for peace with his Palestinian neighbors, but for the implementation of real justice that benefits the Jewish state as well. If so, the wonderful words that President Obama uttered in Cairo in June of 2010 would have meaning in a long, bloody conflict that can, with courage and nonviolence, be resolved for the betterment of all.

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