Reconciliation is a good thing but will it actually represent the Palestinian people?

Hamas and Fatah agreed on Wednesday to reconcile and end all infighting, and to begin work toward establishing a non-partisan-based interim government ahead of long overdue elections. The reconciliation comes over a month after Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip took to the streets to demand unity between the feuding political parties each operating under a different umbrella of policies and circumstances.

The agreement, which resulted from private talks held in the newly liberated Cairo, came as a surprise to unsuspecting Palestinian and international communities. The underlying premise is that division opens the door for occupation whereas unity moves Palestinians one step closer toward declaring statehood. Put this way, it has garnered significant amounts of praise – and justifiably so. But the praise is a bit premature.

There are those who will argue that optimism is the only way to endure decades of occupation. To a certain extent, sure. After all, if it serves as a coping mechanism, then it has proven effective. But blind optimism should never compel the Palestinian people to automatically sign off on a vague proposition as if it’s a last ditch effort for liberation.

Nevertheless, the reconciliation itself truly does provide a positive outlook on the future of the Palestine-Israel dynamic. The infighting and petty feuding has been nothing short of destructive for Palestinian civil society and the split has allowed Israel and its financers all the room they need to sway one political group (which is easier than swaying two) toward a pro-occupation agenda hidden under the guise of exclusivity, favoritism, and VIP perks.

Furthermore, a unity government heeds to the calls of the Palestinian people who, for weeks and in unison, filled the streets of Ramallah, Gaza City, and Nablus waving not the Hamas or Palestinian Authority flag but the Palestinian flag. It is likely that this agreement is a gesture of goodwill to the people it is meant to safeguard.

But just because today’s agreement appears to fulfill even the most idealistic ambitions does not mean that Palestinians and their supporters cannot remain skeptical. The Palestinian people – to whom any reconciliation agreement directly applies – have been cheated many times in the past. As Ali Abunimah pointed out on Al Jazeera English just hours after the announcement, today’s initial response reminds him of the Oslo Accords of 1993 which seemingly established a framework for peace but instead turned out to pit Palestinians in an even more oppressive state of occupation. The people were elated but this elation proved to be baseless after it became obvious that the negotiations process was conducted almost entirely to tend to Israel’s favor. False hope brings more than just disappointment; it brings hidden clauses and twisted interpretations that spawn complex loopholes that allow for settlement growth, rights abuses, and immediate international impunity.

Without taking the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation out of context by principally comparing it with the Oslo Accords, it is important to note that the details have yet to be released. The implications of any such unification have yet to be considered.

The first question to ask is whether or not the reconciliation will serve as a unilateral and fully representational attempt to stand up to the occupation. The dramatic feuding of the last four years has birthed two stubborn approaches that, quite possibly until today, have exponentially diverged. Fatah sold out; Hamas played with guns. Neither party represented the entirety of the Palestinian people. There is one view that is shared by all Palestinians, however, and this is that the occupation must end and that freedom, self-determination, and human rights must all be restored. To represent the wishes of its constituents, any interim government must champion this fundamental tenet. If this guarantee can be made, and if this guarantee is acted upon shortly thereafter, than the reconciliation agreement is worthy of the praise it has received thus far.

The next question to consider is whether or not this unity government constitutes a physical merger between Hamas and Fatah under the label of non-partisanship. There are a large number of Hamas and Fatah leaders who certainly have no place in speaking or acting on behalf of Palestine. These are the individuals who not only help Israel in architecting the occupation of the Palestinian territories but also aid in its implementation by, for example, spending their efforts criticizing one another’s policies rather than the problematic and oftentimes racist policies of their Israeli, pro-occupation counterparts.

The third issue to question deals with the unity government’s response to international pressure. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately issued a statement criticizing the agreement and declaring two possibilities: either the Palestinian Authority enjoys peace with Israel or joins forces with Hamas. Although this threat is more geared toward Fatah and assuming that Netanyahu’s government is not bluffing, this threat implies an invasion might be in the works – one that might even involve the deployment of troops to Area A and Area B of the West Bank in which Palestinians enjoy a small fraction of autonomous control. Will this threat destabilize the reconciliatory government or will both Hamas and Fatah officials hold steadfast and diligently respond the way the Palestinian people choose?

The announcement to restore working relations between Hamas and Fatah embarrassingly comes off almost as a ceasefire. The decrease in internal hostilities aids the push toward the establishment of an independent Palestinian state free of an oppressive occupation and in this vein, it is righteous reconciliation. But there are details left unannounced and until the Palestinian diaspora can fully understand all that this reconciliatory government entails as well as the agenda it chooses to push, it is best to take a cautionary approach and avoid blindly accepting a plan that might actually lead to more unfortunate consequences. It would be a shame of this were just a political ploy.

Sami Kishawi

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