Fatah / Hamas unity government: Will it help? Should we be optimistic?

At best it can be viewed as a bittersweet step with the hope that the rancor subsides to help the nascent coalition.   The decision was based on political self interest, not coherent unity.   Both sides had their own  reasons intrinsic to their factions that led  to the  formation a unity  government.  Whether or not it can be interpreted as sincere  cohesiveness, it probably demonstrates that regardless of their  differences, Hamas and Fatah do rely on each other as a last resort.  

The change in the political setup in Egypt in July 2013 that deposed  MB's Mohamed Morsi was a huge setback for Hamas in Gaza.  Restrictions  on the Rafah Border and complete closure of tunnels to prevent Hamas  activists infiltrating into Egypt and assisting their ousted MB comrades  have put plenty of pressure on Hamas. Residents of Gaza aren't able  to crossover to Egypt for medical treatment nor to visit their  relatives.  Trade and transactions of essential supplies have come to a  halt.  After Sheikh Hammad of Qatar handed over power to his son in June 2013, Hamas already lost huge financial support from the  Qatari block.  Toppling of Morsi the following month made the siege of  Gaza still more unbearable.  Hamas felt it had no other choice but to be  more flexible and reach out to whoever was willing to befriend it with  the hope of easing the siege and having some 'friends' to count on.  Even  someone like Mahmoud Abbas would do.

Abbas has been illegally sitting at the Ramallah office for ten years  since 2004.  He lost a fair election in 2006 against Hamas. Out of 132 seats, Hamas won 74 while Abbas' Fatah bagged only  45.  Yet Abbas continued as the "president" of Palestine at the behest  of Israel and the Western leaders.  Having achieved nothing since the  last decade, he was getting a bit flustered over his illegitimate status  as "president."   Earlier he talked about taking his case to the ICC  but never did; instead he continued to trust the dishonest brokerage of  the U.S. for "peace talks."  He talked about going to the U.N. and  declaring statehood.  But when the moment arrived, he failed to take any  constructive steps. April 29, 2014 was set as the deadline for  Palestinian/Israeli peace talks by the U.S. and Abbas had literally  nothing to show that would compliment his ten years in power.  He is  hoping that reconciliation with Hamas and formation of a single  Palestinian government might help to 'refurbish' his tainted image of a corrupt opportunist.

Yet the move is seen by many as one that may compel Israel  to negotiate with Hamas and consequently an end to the bogus "peace talks" that have  so far yielded nothing.  It has definitely put Israel in an embarrassing  position (at least for the time being), exposing its genuine intent of  never wanting peace as clear as  daylight.  For a long time the  Israeli government refused to negotiate with Mahmoud Abbas over the  pretext that Abbas didn't represent the Palestinian entity as a whole,  with no control over Gaza.  That obstacle (if it was not meant to be a real cause) has now been removed.  But instead of showing the slightest appreciation or optimism, Israel suspended the "peace talks" altogether  as a gesture of disappointment over Fatah's decision to work with  Hamas. 

Plenty of seasoned analysts and observers are of the opinion that now is  the time for Palestinian leaders to seriously regroup, to officially  announce their complete distrust on the uselessness of U.S. brokered  negotiations for over two decades, to focus on alternative movements  such as the BDS  and encourage "popular resistance" to  awaken the world and to awaken Israeli households that the Palestinians have  their own voices as a consolidated entity to put their demands on the  table.  No need for phoney brokers any more!  

As a former member of PLO's negotiation unit, Diana Buttu, puts it:  " .. what Abbas and Fatah have done, which is to wag their finger at  everybody and say "Thou shalt not." They don't empower us to do  something, they just tell us what you shouldn’t do. That's why I think  popular resistance is an important strategyThere has to be a price that is paid for this continued occupation. I'm talking about popular resistance, not armed resistance. But I think that this image or belief that the PA had -- that somehow  the international community is going to save us -- has been proven to be  a false one, The international community is not going to save  Palestine, and I think the only thing that we can do is save ourselves  and make this costly for Israel. And it'll be costly on us for a long  period of time too."  The goal of a popular resistance as explained by Ms. Buttu "is to hold Israel to account. Whether it is holding them to account in an  international arena, or by holding them to account through popular  resistance, they need to begin to see that there is a price to be paid  for the continued occupation and the continued racism inside '48."

Pushing ahead with the BDS movement is vitally important.  The movement is  already growing, getting stronger, and reputable international  personalities and groups are endorsing it.  Recently it was  authenticated by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) which is the  biggest teachers' union in Europe.  It can greatly help to legitimize  the calls of a unity government in Palestine for sanctions on Israel  through its expulsion from international trade organizations.  The  economic impact could rattle large segments of the Israeli population  and their reaction felt by their government.

However, future hopes set aside and coming back to the present,  unity  government on both sides is primarily an act of desperation rather than  seriously setting aside differences and banging heads together to achieve a goal. At this point it would be presumptive to read it as a decision based on national interest nor as representing the visions of the Palestinian struggle for freedom.   Coalitions based on factional interests that do not cater to the needs of the masses are extremely fragile more often than not.   Additionally, both Israel and the U.S. are thoroughly astute and deft  at assessing and wrecking up such bonds with the 'divide and conquer'  stratagem to protect their political interests.  Usually the guile  involves nepotism, granting unjust favors to one side, causing resentment to  the other, followed by gradual disagreements between the two factions,  sowing dissension, pitting them against each other and eventually a  total split.  It has happened before.  There is no reason why it cannot  happen again.   

But at the end of the day, what's truly awesome and marvelous is the  resilience and restraint of the Palestinian people who have made it  ample clear that despite their selfish leaders, despite those numerous  checkpoints, the demolitions of their homes and schools, bulldozing  of their farmlands, land confiscations for construction of illegal Jewish  settlements, widespread unemployment, starvation, lack of potable water,  random arrests, indefinite incarcerations, torture, rape and child  abuse in prisons and much more, the Palestinians are there to stay .. to  rebuild their lives, and to continue their endeavors.  They're not  leaving their indigenous homeland.  They are not going away anywhere.   It makes Ms. Buttu's opinion of a popular resistance and not an armed  resistance more possible in the future.  But human endurance has  limits and the Palestinians are no exceptions.  Persecution by Israel's  apartheid regime is much too severe and only getting more grueling by  the day.  Palestine is precisely the place to be called a "powder keg,"  unity government or not.