Two taps, Three pats. Palestinian groupings agree to be friends against Israel

Text of report by the website of government-owned Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta on 28 April

[Report by Yevgeniy Shestakov: "Two taps, Three pats. Palestinian groupings agree to be friends against Israel"]

If we were to count up how many times during their existence representatives of the opposing Fatah and Hamas groupings in Palestine have cheerfully patted each other’s arms, shoulders, and other parts of the body during talks as a sign of reconciliation, we would probably end up with a good dozen such moments.

Only, as usually happens, not one of these agreements, concluded earlier with the participation of the most authoritative Arab intermediaries, has been fulfilled. Things have gotten no further than approving pats and confiding kisses. Not one side in the internal Palestinian conflict has wanted to forego the advantages that it had.

Today Hamas is in reliable control of the Gaza Strip, where it long ago shot down all Fatah supporters. It is now reckoning on extending its zone of influence to the West Bank of the Jordan. Fatah, lured by EU and US money, in turn is in no hurry to surrender to its political opponents the financial flows and the not too onerous duties of managing the territories under its control. In principle this dyarchy used to suit everyone.

But Israel managed the impossible: It sat the former enemies around the negotiating table. I have not made a mistake, for it was Tel Aviv that became the involuntary catalyst for unification processes in Palestine. The talks that ended in Egypt, at which the Palestinian movements agreed to hold general elections, only drew a line under the risky steps that Israel had taken in the region. The signing of the definitive agreement between Fatah and Hamas is scheduled for 4 May. Tel Aviv is now covering up its dismay at such a development of the situation behind words of indignation. No wonder, for at the talks in Egypt Hamas still did not recognize the Jewish state’s right to exist. This means that Tel Aviv may finally lose a legitimate partner in the dialogue with the Palestinians if moderate Fatah suffers defeat in the general elections in the authority.

At the same time Israel appears to have forgotten that it itself pushed the two once sworn enemies into each other’s arms. It was the Israeli authorities’ decision to resume the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians would like to see as the capital of their own state, and not Tel Aviv’s desire to reckon with no one’s opinion but its own that caused the two warring Palestinian movements to decide to be friends against the Jewish state. This is not stated openly, but these plans can be read between the lines.

Even if we assume that the agreement between them is nothing more than a tactical step on the part of the Fatah movement, which is seeking thereby to push Israel into making serious concessions, it has to be recognized that this is a strong political move. In addition, the treaty concluded in Cairo has received the approval of the West – a factor of considerable importance considering the scale of the financial aid that the Palestinian [National] Authority receives.

It is possible to discuss only in the subjunctive mood whether unifying elections will take place in Palestine. All the participants in the talks in Egypt realize that obstacles may appear at any moment that will make it impossible to fulfil the agreements concluded. But for now all the high contracting parties are displaying optimism and lavishing smiles for the television cameras. In the hope that the sponsors of the Near East process will also believe once again that peace has come to the region.

Source: Rossiyskaya Gazeta website, Moscow, in Russian 28 Apr 11

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