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Unity government in labour
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 01 - 03 - 2007

While the Palestinians are pulling together, nothing on the other side -- Israel -- inspires optimism, writes Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
The Palestinian Authority (PA) with its two wings, Hamas and Fatah, is embarking on what is being described as a successful campaign aimed at convincing the international community, particularly the European Union, to support the upcoming national unity government, expected to be formed in the next few days.
Palestinian officials in Gaza described efforts by President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal to mobilise world support for the national unity government as "encouraging and successful".
On Tuesday, Meshal met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, urging him to support the government and work towards lifting the American-led blockade imposed by the West and Israel following Hamas's election victory in January 2006.
Earlier, President Abbas had told reporters following a meeting with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak that Europeans were seeking clarifications as to the political platform of a Palestinian national unity government, especially with regard to the issue of recognising Israel.
Abbas said Monday that the political organisations and movements represented in the government wouldn't have to commit themselves to government positions. "The government position is binding upon government ministers and officials but not on their factions."
This statement should help hardliners within Hamas to claim that the movement didn't abandon its political and ideological constants and that government positions don't automatically represent the positions of the organisation.
Earlier, Palestinian officials from both Fatah and Hamas urged Egypt to use its good offices to convince the Quartet and other influential members of the international community to support the Mecca Accord and lift the crippling economic siege against the Palestinians.
Earlier, Palestinian Premier-Designate Ismail Haniyeh praised the "positive Egyptian stand", in reference to Egyptian refusals of American requests to pressure Hamas to recognise Israel. In contrast, Haniyeh and other government officials have voiced outrage at statements by Jordan King Abdullah urging the Palestinian government to "meet the conditions of the Quartet".
In interview with Israeli television this week, King Abdullah made no mention of the need for a reciprocal Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state, nor did he demand full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, generating widespread Palestinian consternation.
Meanwhile, Haniyeh said he hoped to be able to present a national unity government for approval by the Palestinian president and parliament "as soon as possible". On Tuesday, Haniyeh began intensive consultations with the two largest factions in the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hamas and Fatah, for the purpose of choosing ministers who will be at the helm of various portfolios.
He said he would meet with President Abbas "very soon" in order to "put the final touches" on the government.
Haniyeh has already held extensive consultations with all political factions with the aim of formulating the largest possible Palestinian national consensus with regard to the national unity government and the upcoming political phase.
According to inside sources in Gaza and Ramallah, the upcoming Palestinian government will reaffirm "its commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian question in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the land for peace formula".
The government will also voice "its general adherence to Arab and international agreements pertaining to Palestinian-Israeli strife".
However, unlike previous Fatah-led governments, the next government will make it clear that all Palestinian commitments vis-à-vis Israel, including possible de facto recognition of it, is conditional on clear reciprocal Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state on 100 per cent of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, as well as an equitable solution of the Palestinian refugee problem pursuant UN General Assembly Resolution 194.
This stand, which enjoys absolute and total consensus among all Palestinians, is unlikely to be accepted by Israel for two reasons.
First, Israel views the West Bank as "disputed" rather than "occupied" territories, though its stand is contradicted by international law. As to the issue of Jerusalem, Israel annexed Arab East Jerusalem soon after its occupation of the city in 1967, now considering Jerusalem its "united and undivided capital".
Second, Israel vehemently rejects any notion of a mass return of Palestinian refugees to their villages and towns in what is now Israel on the backward grounds that their repatriation would undermine the "Jewish identity" of Israel.
Palestinians, especially refugee leaders, argue that the refugee plight is the essence of the Palestinian problem and that without granting the refugees, or most of them, the right to return home, no possible settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority would be durable.


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