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Prospects for Palestinian Unity After the Arab Spring

If the revolutions sweeping then Arab world are in fact its “spring” then the Hamas/Fateh reconciliation deal may very well be the first buds this season produced. Whether or not this reconciliation deal will bear any fruit for the Palestinian people, however, is yet to be seen. To best understand the factors affecting the success of the deal, one must have grasp of the history of the relationship between Hamas and Fatah and the role of external actors in that relationship as well. In this commentary I lay out a history of tensions and the role of the US and Israel in driving wedges between the parties. Similar challenges will undoubtedly face this reconciliation attempt and the greatest chances of success can be achieved when both parties put the interests of the Palestinian people ahead of the demands of their external patrons.

Prospects for Palestinian Unity After the Arab Spring
It comes as no surprise that the eventual reconciliation deal was signed only months after a historic revolution ousted the octogenarian Hosni Mubarak and his close security confidant Omar Suleiman.
 

On May 4, 2011, the Palestinian factions Fateh and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement ending a four-year division, which debilitated Palestinian domestic politics and national strategy. The agreement, signed with much fanfare in a post-Mubarak Cairo, raised hopes as well as questions. Could this really be the end of division between bitter rivals and the start of a unified Palestinian movement? How will such an agreement be tested over time? How will Washington and Tel Aviv respond to the agreement, and how does this all relate to the “Arab Spring?”

These many questions are as interesting as they are important. To attempt to provide answers to them requires an understanding of the genesis of the division between these two Palestinian factions, the history of their relationship prior to the recent period, and the differences in both interests and ideology.

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