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Henryk M. Broder

25.04.2007   11:03   +Feedback

The Road From Mecca

The Mecca agreement reached last February between Fatah and Hamas, and the formation of a national unity government that followed, is a first step toward clarification. It’s an important step, but it may yet fail and what has happened since has only partially allayed concern that the two rival movements cannot work together. Fatah clings to the belief that it has not lost any power and Hamas to the notion that it has gained a preponderance of it. In the Gaza Strip, where competition is most intense, fighting between the two groups has persisted, although it is now less violent and more susceptible to control. An immediate wholesale breakdown of relations between the two groups at the moment appears less than likely, for nothing unites Palestinians more than an antipathy to violent internecine strife. Should a breakdown of relations between the two nonetheless occur, fueled by domestic power struggles and stoked by outside interference, it would cause mayhem, instability, and violence, directed initially at fellow Palestinians but also, in time and inevitably, at Israel.

Even if the Mecca agreement and the unity government survive, they will face a period of deep and enduring instability, prompting a sweeping and significant change on the Palestinian political scene. The Mecca agreement is about the establishment of a national unity government, but that is the least of what it is about. If successful, it marks the beginning of the end of single-party rule and the dawn of wider political participation. It affects the distribution of power within all Palestinian institutions, those of the PA as well as those of the PLO, political as well as military bodies.

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