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EDITORIAL – Seeking political unity in Palestine

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EDITORIAL – Seeking political unity in Palestine

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THIS WEEK’S capture and elimination of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, marks a major turning point of the President Barack Obama administration.
The attack has shaped United States foreign policy to a greater degree than any other development of the decade and led to two major wars, one of which is still ongoing. It has unfortunately resulted in gross violations of human rights in the name of the “war on terror”.
Notwithstanding, the decision of the Palestinian political parties Fatah and Hamas to bury the hatchet and forge a united party by democratic means is encouraging news, to say the least. One could be forgiven for thinking that this decision would be welcomed by the United States and, if grudgingly, Israel. 
The news was rejected out of hand partly on the grounds that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly condemned it, saying that Fatah might have lost any opportunity to negotiate a two-state solution because of its new partnership with Hamas.
The United States was more cautious. It welcomed the reconciliation, albeit on the condition that any Palestinian unity government must renounce all violence against Israel and must also recognize Israel’s right to exist. 
With most of the Arab world imploding around them, the Palestinian leaders must have been forced to do some rethinking.
The existence of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and the Fatah-controlled West Bank as two independent cantons within Palestine has done significant harm to the Palestinian struggle for achieving sovereignty on their soil. 
The split between the post-Arafat Fatah and Islamist Hamas followed the latter’s victory in the January 2006 parliamentary election. However, as is well known, the elected government was never allowed to function. 
Israel blocked US$50 million of the Palestinian Authority’s revenue share, with the United States and the European Union following suit by cutting off all non-humanitarian assistance. The aid denial made it difficult for the Hamas government to pay salaries.
And when the Arab League, Iran and Russia tried to help the Palestinian Authority, western banks refused to undertake transactions. The situation worsened when violent clashes broke out between Hamas and Fatah supporters and President Mahmoud Abbas asked an Independent, Salam Fayyad, to form the government. 
All parties therefore exploited the Hamas-Fatah split. It is now incumbent upon all of them to embrace the proposed unity so that peace may indeed be possible. If Hamas wins an election again, as it did in 2006, the world should accept the Palestinian verdict.