by Mike Gibbs
Last week, a historic meeting was arranged between the Islamic Hamas and the secular Fatah in Cairo. Fatah and Hamas are the two predominant political parties of Palestine. The Egyptian government brought together party leaders from both sides for an end to the three-year divide between the two factions. For Palestinians, before statehood can be acquired, the Gaza-controlled Hamas and the West bank-controlled Fatah must unite.
Starting in 2005, after the death of Yasser Arafat, Fatah was viewed as an increasingly corrupt organization, willing to bargain away Palestinian rights for personal gain. At the same time, however, Fatah had control of the Palestinian Authority and was the only party Israel was willing to negotiate with. During 2006, the United States and Israel put increasing pressure on the Palestinians to hold democratic elections. The results placed one of the senior advisors in Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, in the office of Prime Minister.
The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, dismissed Ismail Haniyeh from office during the peak of the Fatah-Hamas tension. Abbas appointed Salam Fayyad to replace Haniyeh. Many argued whether the president held the power to appoint a new prime minister. This event led to the separation of the West Bank and Gaza.
After the election, Israel withheld the tax revenue meant to support the Palestinian Authority. In response, the U.S. demanded the $50 million to support infrastructure be returned. The U.S. felt the need to intervene because it was dismayed by the results of the popular election and would not respect the will of the average Palestinian. Because of this, many Palestinian residents feel the U.S. only supports parties that are willing to cater to U.S. interests in the region.
Now, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that tax revenues will again be withheld following the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. While Israel believes they are stopping this money from reaching a terrorist organization, in reality they are forcing a salary cut on many poverty-level public employees. Netanyahu has also claimed Israel now has no partner for peace. Israel has refused to negotiate with any Palestinian government of which Hamas is a part. One of the preconditions for negotiation requires that Hamas immediately disarm its military wing, which it refuses to do. With Israel continuing to take Palestinian land does the reluctance of Hamas to submit to disarmament come as a surprise? With or without the involvement of Netanyahu, Palestine is now closer to achieving statehood and a permanent seat in the United Nations.
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