Difference between Fatah and Hamas is not stumbling block in creation of Palestinian state: experts

Politics Materials 18 June 2009 10:54 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, June 17/ Trend , U.Sadikhova /

Political differences between the Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas hinder the establishment of security in the region, but the views of experts differ on the question of influence of political differences on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Special envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East  (USA, EU, UN and Russia), former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said at the meeting with the Palestinian Administration President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah that "without addressing the differences between Fatah and Hamas it is not possible to establish an independent Palestinian state", Arabic Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported.
Blair added that "the international community has an obligation to work towards establishing a viable, sovereign Palestinian state that will co-exist in security alongside with Israel, but firstly it needs to stop the disagreement between the West Bank, where Fatah controls, and the Gaza Strip, where Palestinian resistance movement Hamas controls.

Despite several rounds of talks between Fatah and Hamas with the mediation of Egypt regarding establishment of a national Palestinian government, the Palestinian parties failed to reach an agreement. The main problem is the disagreement of Hamas to introduce Fatah troops into the Gaza Strip, from where they were expelled in 2007 as a result of military clashes, and resistance movement's recognition of the international agreements between the Palestinian Administration and Israel. The parties agreed to establish special committees, which must devise the program of the national government, which will be presented at the meeting of Fatah and Hamas in July.

The temporary National Government on the West Bank, including members of Hamas, will operate by the elections in the Autonomy in January 2010.

According to Hasan Asfour, a former head of the delegation of administration in the negotiations, said that the split between the Palestinian parties is an important point in the negotiations with Israel, since the Palestinians are not represented as a single person.

"Without solving the problem of Palestinian unity and ending the internal split it is difficult to talk about reconciliation with Israel -  Asfour, former Minister of the Palestinian Administration, Trend by telephone from Cairo. - The National [Palestinian] unity is the main weapon to force Israel to start peace talks".

Israel also believes that the lack of control by Hamas in Gaza leads to the erosion of security in the region, because the movement receives arms and missiles from Iran through the tunnels on the border with Egypt. Despite that Fatah supports reconciliation with Israel with the mediation of the Arab and Western countries, Hamas refuses armed resistance to Israel in response to the blockade of Gaza and construction of Jewish settlements.

Differences between Hamas and Fatah do not like the usual political parties' struggle for power and influence, says Neil Quilliam, an analyst for the Middle East politics, so the two parties must reach a political agreement for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

"The problem for Fatah is that the domestic balance of power has swung decidedly in favour of Hamas, which is now considered by many Palestinians to be the natural party of power, Quilliam, a leading analyst on security at British Control Risks Centre, told Trend via e-mail. - Unless the two factions can agree on a power-sharing arrangement that takes into account the new realities on the ground, there is little chance that they will form a durable unity government.

"The political impasse will prevent them from persuading international partners to back plans for creation of a Palestinian state," said Quilliam.

However, the process of establishing a Palestinian state is hindered by the construction of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and the refusal of the international community to involve Hamas in the talks, observers say.

The national government of Fatah and Hamas is necessary to create a unified government for the Palestinian people, but in the formation of an independent state the important role is played by Israel's desire to contribute to this, says a leading Arab analyst on the Middle East politics Arib al-Rantavi.

The reason for the split of the Palestinian parties is the conflict with Israel, the refusal to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state and the construction of Jewish settlements on the West Bank, al-Rantavi, Director of Al Quds Center for Political Studies, told Trend by telephone from Amman.

Nicola Pratt, lecturer on international affairs at the University of East Anglia, considers that the split between Hamas and Fateh is definitely a blow to the Palestinian national movement. However, the split between the two groups is, for a large part, the direct result of actions previously taken by the US and its allies to combat strengthening of Hamas.

"The split between Hamas and Fateh is also exacerbated by Israel's actions and each group's strategy for dealing with this. Israel's continued building and expansion of settlements undermines Palestinian support for a negotiated 2-state solution," Pratt told Trend via e-mail.
Israel refuses to freeze the process of expanding Jewish settlements, saying it is "natural population growth," although Washington opposes against this.

The total number of settlers on the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is half a million, and the number of settlements reached 121, RIA Novosti reported.

Pratt considers that if the US keeps up pressure on Israel vis-a-vis the settlements, this should help in achieving a Palestinian national unity government.
But today, when negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel reached an impasse, the Arab countries can play an important role in reconciling Fatah and Hamas.

Quilliam thinks that the main urgent step to bring about a unity government would be the intervention of third parties. Third party intervention has proven to be instrumental in the region, for example, Qatar's role was critical in ending the political impasse between the governing and opposition coalitions in Lebanon, he said.
Asfour, who believes that Egypt and other Arab countries are serious in addressing the issue of inner split, agrees with him.

In spring, the Secretary General of the League of Arab States Amr Moussa also called upon Fatah and Hamas to seriously deal with the creation of a national government in order to demonstrate a single position in negotiations with Israel.

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