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Musa A Keilani: Unity can win united goal
December 12, 2012
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

 
The Palestinian Hamas group this week marked its 25th anniversary after having sent a resounding message that it is a force to be reckoned with and there would never be a solution to the Palestinian problem if it is excluded from the process.

The Gaza-based group considers itself to have won the latest confrontation with Israel after eight days of violence that killed more than 150 Palestinians. Subsequently, the group also endorsed the successful bid by the West Bank-based Palestinian National Authority to upgrade Palestine’s status at the United Nations.

One of the notable events of the Hamas anniversary celebrations was the first visit there by the group’s leader in exile, Khaled Meshaal, in 45 years. Meshaal could not visit the Gaza Strip until this week because the Egyptian regime would not allow him to cross the border into the Mediterranean enclave.

This time around, things have changed because of the Arab Spring that saw the regime of long-time president Hosni Mubarak overthrown last year and the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent group of Hamas, is the dominant group in Egypt.

Obviously, Hamas is riding high with the feeling that it is gaining regional political influence after the Arab uprisings brought new Islamist governments to power.

There is a growing desire among Palestinians for an end to the differences that have weakened their cause, and the leaders of Hamas and Fatah-led PNA should not but be aware of it.

Meshaal referred to the pressing issue of unity among his people after he entered the Gaza Strip on Friday.

Standing in the ruins of a house destroyed in an Israeli air strike, he said: “With God’s will... reconciliation will be achieved. National unity is at hand.”

After Hamas chased out the secular and nationalist Fatah from the Gaza Strip in 2007, attempts were made to reconcile the two groups, but distrust prevented that from happening.

PNA President Mahmoud Abbas and Meshaal met in 2011 and accepted an Egyptian plan to reconcile the rival factions but no major progress to this effect has been reported since then. There are differences within Hamas over how to reconcile with Fatah and proceed to making peace with Israel.

Meshaal’s visit to the Gaza Strip could be taken as an indication that the Hamas leaders living under Israeli occupation — Gaza remains under a choking Israeli land, air and sea blockade despite Israel’s withdrawal from the enclave — have moved to end their differences.

Well, Hamas leaders have to settle their differences first before moving to reconcile with Fatah.

A united Palestinian platform to deal with Israel should be a priority today. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is moving fast to create new realities on the ground with a view to denying the Palestinians the physical viability of a state through expanded settlement construction and cutting off roads through the West Bank. He has seized the successful Palestinian push for upgraded UN status as a justification for the stepped up drive.

The UN General Assembly’s overwhelming vote last month to grant Palestine non-member observer state status was followed by Netanyahu’s retaliation through withholding tax revenues of some $100 million due the PNA, and authorising the construction of 3,000 new illegal homes for Israeli settlers in Arab East Jerusalem, making it impossible for this territory to become part of a future Palestinian state.

Under the present conditions, it seems impossible for the creation of an independent Palestinian state with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital. But Israel is becoming increasingly isolated and its latest measures against the Palestinians have drawn international condemnation.

The European reaction to Netanyahu’s actions was unprecedentedly sharp, with harsh criticism by governments, ambassadors summoned for explanations and discussions on further common actions against Israel.

The British and German abstentions during the UN vote should be an eye opener for Israel. Britain has been a follower of any American lead on Israel, and Germany is always expected to vote with Israel. The number of all of the votes by the other major European governments against Israel was also high.

Another factor that should work in favour of the Palestinians is the growing awareness among the American public of Israel’s exploitation of their material and military resources. Well, they have only their political leadership, both Republican and Democrat, to blame because both parties have put those resources at Israel’s disposal.

Awareness of the realities of the Palestinian problem has remained at a low among the American people. The situation is changing although it could not be assessed how the American people as a whole thought about the issue because the pro-Israeli US media have always been careful what they told the people about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

According to experts on US affairs, a substantial number of American and Israeli political observers are aware that more and more Americans are waking up from their ignorance/indifference towards the Arab-Israeli conflict, which might eventually end in a popular American backlash against Israel and its American facilitators sooner or later.

Whatever happens in the next few weeks towards Palestinian reconciliation, the message should be clearly spelt out to the international community that Hamas is ready to accept a political solution with Israel and it is Israel that is refusing to accept it.

In order to do that, the leaders of all Palestinians should come together and build on the 2011 Cairo agreement that spells the way ahead. As long as the Palestinians continue squabbling among themselves, there is no chance of a fair and just solution to their problem and their dream of an independent state will remain a dream.
__________________________________________
The author, a former Jordanian ambassador, is the
chief editor of  Al Urdun weekly in Amman
 

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