A First Step, but Israel and the U.S. Stand in the Way, Noura Erakat
By giving Palestinians greater strength when dealing with Israel, a Fatah-Hamas unity government is a necessary first step toward a viable solution. But continuing obstacles make it insufficient toward achieving that goal.
Since Hamas’s electoral victory in 2006, Fatah has spent tremendous financial and diplomatic resources to defeat Hamas at the expense of combating Israel’s apartheid regime and military occupation. While Hamas has similarly targeted Fatah members and suppressed their protests in the Gaza Strip, the magnitude of its attacks has paled in comparison to its rival`s.
Fatah’s control of the Palestinian Authority and its maintenance of diplomatic relations have enabled it to make decisions on behalf of the Palestinian people among other states and multilateral bodies. It has used its relative power to considerably weaken Hamas’s legitimacy and position. Palestinians have suffered the most as a result of this internecine conflict.
Previous reconciliation efforts have been swiftly dashedby external intervention – most notably by the United States and Israel.
This round may be different because both Palestinian factions are enduring political vulnerabilities. The clamp down on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has weakened Hamas, while the failure of the latest round of peace talks has incapacitated Fatah, which placed all its eggs in this broken basket. Fatah also recently acceded to 15 international agreements despite U.S. opposition indicating its protest to the failed negotiations.
Still, it is unlikely that the unity agreement signals a new page in the course of Palestinian national history because the West Bank economy, with a bloated public sector and high rates of debt, is reliant on donor aid for survival; donor aid over which the United States exercises considerable influence. A successful unity government must be ready to find new sources of funding if necessary and new diplomatic alliances able to fill the role the United States has historically filled and monopolized. Such radical shifts may be unlikely but they are not impossible.
In the meantime, the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement to overcome government intransigence remains as relevant and as necessary as ever. It will grow as a younger generation of civil society activists step in where the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and governments around the world have failed. There is no alternative to national reconciliation, however, as the global movement can only shape but not supplant the political process.
Only a Single-State Solution Will Bring Peace, Ali Abunimah
Let`s go back to basics: The Palestinian people live under occupation and siege in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, as second-class citizens in present-day Israel, and as refugees, as a consequence of the Zionist colonization of historic Palestine that began more than a century ago and continues today.
Efforts to "solve" the situation by creating separate, ethnically homogenous states for the colonizing society, on the one hand, and for the victims of the colonization, on the other -- along the lines of apartheid South Africa`s Bantustan system -- have failed.
The remaining route to a just peace would be a historic agreement to dismantle this colonial reality; it would transform Israeli Jews from a settler-colonial garrison society, and Palestinians from a subjugated people, into citizens of a common state committed to protecting the rights of all. Painstaking work would be needed to reverse the gross inequalities that are the consequence of the purposeful dispossession of the Palestinians.
As in South Africa and Northern Ireland, where historic settlements along similar lines are being implemented, such an agreement would require a legitimate, broadbased Palestinian leadership and an Israeli leadership that recognizes that Israel`s form of ethnoreligious apartheid must end.
Yet for many years, Israel and the United States have done all they can to thwart the emergence or recognition of representative Palestinian leaders: the Palestinian Authority functions as a native enforcer on behalf of Israel`s occupation. Hamas, though it is currently observing the November 2012 ceasefire it negotiated with Israel, remains committed to exercising the Palestinians` right to resistance and self-defense.
This contradiction cannot be resolved through the agreement that was just signed in Gaza. Nor will Israel or the United States permit the weakened and aid-dependent Palestinian Authority to implement it.
A major step toward a just peace would be if the United States would stop interfering in Palestinian politics and instead use its influence to pressure Israel to abandon its commitment to ethnoreligious segregation.
While that is unlikely to happen soon, Palestinians will continue to seek other ways to defend their internationally recognized rights, and that includes their peaceful strategy of boycott, divestment and sanctions.
[These op-eds were originally published in The New York Times.]