Israel Set to Block Palestinian Unity – Consortiumnews

As the Palestinians seek unity between their two rival factions, Israel stands ready to obstruct the process and thus maintain its complaint that the Palestinians remain divided, notes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

The latest attempt at reconciliation between the competing Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas has produced a preliminary agreement that Egypt brokered and was announced earlier this month. The reasons for movement on this subject at this time involve motivations of the Egyptians, who want to use improved relations with authorities in the Gaza Strip to help defeat extremists who are active in the Sinai Peninsula.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making opening remarks at a joint White House press conference with President Donald Trump on Feb. 15, 2017. (Screenshot from White House video)

Egypt, which has taken the side of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in their dispute with Qatar, also hopes to reduce Qatari and Turkish influence among the Palestinians.  The evolving motivations of Hamas also are pertinent. The group has come to realize how thankless a task is the governing of the Gaza Strip, which is beset by an Israeli semi-blockade and unrepaired damage from Israel’s military assaults.

The preliminary agreement is little more than a joint statement of aspirations and a timetable for resolving outstanding issues. The main substantive advance has been Hamas’s declared willingness to turn over administration of the Strip to the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (P.A.). Laborious negotiations lie ahead to resolve questions such as how to integrate two separate cadres of civil servants.

Historically based ill will and mistrust also must be overcome. Palestinians, just like other nations, have politics characterized by ideological and generational divides, some of which can be sharp. Anyone familiar with U.S. politics, with its considerable ill will and sharp divides, ought to find this easy to understand.

An additional complicating factor of late is the ambition of Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah security chief in Gaza who has been leveraging his friendship with the UAE (where he…

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