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Palestinian Unity Deal Creates a Stir in Middle East

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Palestinian Unity Deal Creates a Stir in Middle East

Hamas and Fatah Agreement for Joint Government Angers Israel

by Nicholas Casey, WSJ, Apr. 4, 2014

“GAZA CITY—Four weeks ago Munib al Masri, a Palestinian billionaire, set off quietly for the Gaza Strip to meet Ismail Haniyeh, the Islamist leader of Hamas, to propose a deal to end seven years of rivalry with the Palestine Liberation Organization and form a joint government.

The offer fell on fertile ground, setting the rival groups on the path to a deal that is rippling through the Middle East, creating a new obstacle to peace talks with Israel and possibly derailing one of top foreign policy priorities for the U.S. Palestinian leaders acknowledge they’ve caused a stir, but say the only way to a peace with Israel is to first end their internal divisions.

“Hamas is now part of the mainstream,” said Mr. Masri. “The Palestinians are now united.””…..

“For its part, Hamas has agreed to allow technocrats to run the new government, which will recognize Israel, as the PLO does.”…

“The main catalyst for the unity deal was Hamas’s deteriorating situation in Gaza, its politicians say. The Gaza Strip was withering under a dual blockade from Egypt and Israel that was cutting off its access to vital supplies. With tunnels into Gaza sealed, medicines and foods were running out and unemployment was soaring.

“There were shortages of everything,” said Ahmed Yusef, a former adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. “We decided to work hand in hand with Fatah because our ship was sinking.”

Fatah, Hamas’ rival that controls the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, was suffering too.”…..

“Islamic Jihad, a group generally regarded as more militant than Hamas, says it flooded Gaza with charity operations when the Hamas government couldn’t keep up with the population’s needs. While Hamas largely honored a cease-fire agreement with Israel, Islamic Jihad gained credibility by sending its tunnel diggers from the Egyptian border to Gaza’s north to dig tunnels toward Israel and begin staging raids, the group’s spokesman Daowd Shehab said in a recent interview.

Last month Islamic Jihad fired 70 rockets into Israel, raising fears the fragile cease-fire between Hamas and Israel could collapse. Israel says it holds Hamas, as the most powerful force in Gaza, responsible for rockets fired by other groups.”….

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