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Before September, Unity must be Achieved
June 20, 2011
The long awaited Fateh-Hamas meeting has been postponed - again. President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal, who were supposed to meet in Cairo in two days, announced on June 19 that the rendezvous had been put off indefinitely.
While the stalling is no surprise to most Palestinians, it is definitely disappointing. After four years of strife, the two sides finally signed a reconciliation agreement last month, vowing to lay their differences to rest. The reconciliation – which came with much fanfare – included a promise to form a transitional government made up of independent Palestinians to which both sides agree. Although this may sound easy, it is far from it.
Rumor has it that the postponement came on the backdrop of the two sides’ disagreement over who would fill the post of prime minister. Currently, the Western-backed, largely Palestinian-accepted Salam Fayyad holds this position along with the finance ministry. Problems started when Fateh nominated Fayyad to resume this position in the new technocrat government. Hamas said no way. While the two sides did not specify why exactly the meeting had been postponed, the choice of prime minister is a likely reason.
For the Palestinians, this is not good news. Whether the two newly-reconciled sides choose Fayyad or not, it is the very fact that they cannot agree which is so disappointing. For four long years, Palestinians watched as Hamas and Fateh went at each other’s throats, at the political level and on the ground. They watched with guarded hope as the sides moved closer and closer to conciliation agreements only to watch them unravel at the last minute. They watched as Gaza became more and more isolated, by Israel from the outside and by Hamas from within. And all along, they continued to hope that one day the leaders of both sides would come to their senses and realize that nothing can be achieved in a house divided.
When that day came last month, most of us let out a huge sigh of relief. The feud, the ridiculous feud, was over. Finally, Palestinians could get back to the most important article on their agenda, ending Israel’s occupation, gaining justice for Palestinians everywhere and achieving their liberation. Without internal divisions, our front would be stronger, more credible and more potent.
Today, we stand before a situation that is all too familiar. The reconciliation agreement was well televised, widely covered in the press and even celebrated in the streets. But here we are. Abbas and Meshal cannot even agree to hold a meeting, much less to form a government. Accusations have begun to abound. This and that side did not live up to their promises, this person or that is corrupt, etc. etc. Each week, Palestinians are thrown a bone – within the week, the government will be announced. Then, when the week is up, it becomes within the next 10 days and so on and so forth.
The final result is what we have all been protesting: weak leaders who cannot see farther than the tips of their noses. In the wake of the Arab spring, the Palestinians have come to know what they want from their leaders too: people who represent them, who know how to lead and how to keep the big picture before them at all times.
Sadly, the childlike cliché “what you see is what you get” is painfully true. We see outdated leaders who have forgotten the demands of their people. While Abbas, Meshal, Fayyad or any other person who has secured a position in Palestine’s decision making bodies are surely united in their desire to rid the Palestinians of Israel’s hegemony, this is not nearly enough. Leaders must tap into the demands, needs and wants of their people, listen to them and channel their strength into responsible decisions.
This is not what we are seeing. Unfortunately, the sad history of repeated mistakes is happening again. When the Palestinians head to the United Nations in September to demand recognition of a Palestinian state, it should be with one voice. We should not have to beg our leaders to unite. That is something they should know on their own.
Joharah Baker is Director of the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at email@example.com.
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