Special from Gaza: Fayyad dispute sends Palestinian rapprochement into doubt

Gaza City–After signing a high-profile reconciliation accord in Cairo last month, historic rivals Hamas and Fatah are showing signs of discord after a dispute surfaced in recent days regarding who should lead the transitional government, a central component to the deal.

The disagreement is leading Palestinian analysts and citizens to question the durability of the pact.
Fatah officials last week reportedly endorsed Salam Fayyad, the independent prime minister in the Palestinian Authority, to head the transitional government. Hamas, however, categorically rejected the idea.
The pact stipulates the government be composed of independents.
Senior Hamas leader Salah al-Bardaweel told reporters on Sunday his movement will not accept Fayyad for any ministerial position in the interim government.
“We don’t deal with such media leaks, however, we totally reject Fayyad's nomination as his name is involved with detaining and torturing Hamas supporters in the West Bank,” said Bardaweel. “Besides, he’s the reason behind the economic crisis in the Palestinian territories.”
Fayyad is an American-trained economist, widely accepted by the international community.
The two parties have been at loggerheads since Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006. A unity government lasted nearly a year before street battles erupted in Gaza that led to Hamas’ ouster of Fatah personnel and forcible takeover of the coastal enclave.
Gazans, who have waited for substantive steps toward reconciliation for years now, received the news of contention with great disappointment.
Nalan Sarraj, a 20-year-old journalism student, said the two movements lack concern for Palestinians at large and are merely seeking individual benefit.
“We have been waiting for the signed paper to be implemented,” Nalan said. “But nothing is real yet.”
Others expressed equanimity, claiming they never anticipated the pact would usher promise into Palestinian society's embattled political scene.
“Since the [political] figures are still the same, I’m not expecting much change,” said Lina, a 21-year-old blogger.
Delegations from both parties are scheduled to meet on Tuesday in Cairo. The talks, aimed at forming the elusive government, will be led by Fatah central committee member Azzam al-Ahmed and Fatah deputy political bureau chief Moussa Abu Marzouq.
West Bank-based Fatah official Ahmed Assaf told Al-Masry Al-Youm nominations should not be discussed until after the summit. Assaf insists his movement is eager to have the interim government achieved as soon so possible, as it serves the Palestinian interest.
“I think that Hamas made a quick decision of commenting on media leaks,” said Assaf. “It had to wait until the peace talks are done.“
Okal argued the leak is irrelevant and the focus should be on substantive developments.
“Hamas has the right to nominate and so does Fatah,” said Talal Okal, a Gaza-based analyst. “But everything should be on the negotiating table so it’s not a surprise that Hamas rejected that suggestion made in the media.”
Fatah’s Assaf says he expects a positive atmosphere during Tuesday’s negotiations.
“We see the agreement as a good way to satisfy the high interest of everyone and not as a veto right,” he said.
The unity government could potentially help PA President Mahmoud Abbas with his bid for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations, a motion analysts expect later this year. For Hamas, rapprochement provides an ideal exit from international isolation.
Fatah’s much-publicized sacking of the movement’s senior official Mohammed Dahaln for corruption allegations in recent days will not impact progress toward a unity government, Assaf says.
“Dahlan’s sacking has nothing to do with reconciliation as long as the general attitude of the movement is supporting the reconciliation,” Assaf said.
Analysts remain unsure of what reconciliation in concrete form would look like. Key differences between the two parties remain, notably regarding a future relationship with Israel. Fatah has entered negotiations geared towards a two-state solution while Hamas rejects the legitimacy of the Israeli state’s existence.
“The atmosphere is still sick; political detention is still on,” said Okal, who claimed Palestinians should not expect reconciliation to solve all the problems. “Having a real agreement on the ground is what’s needed and not a signed paper.”

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