Monday, July 18, 2011

More rockets from Gaza hit Israel

Palestinian factions settle comfortably into limbo

Two months after announcing a proposed unity government, talks are stalled between rivals Hamas and Fatah. Neither side pushes to resume, but neither is quite ready to call the deal off.

Palestinian factions
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Amas, left, talks with Khaled Meshaal of the rival group Hamas at a May meeting in Cairo. Reuters

A proposed Palestinian unity government that was touted two months ago as a potential Mideast game-changer has been stalled by familiar political realities and lingering antagonisms.

Since rival factions Fatah and Hamas announced a reconciliation after four years of feuding, the promised coalition government remains unformed due to disputes over who will serve as prime minister. Other goodwill measures, such as mutual prisoner releases, have also gone unfulfilled since May, and public attacks against one another have resumed.

Last week, Gaza Strip-based Hamas officials lambasted Fatah leaders for welcoming the Greek president to the West Bank just days after Greece intercepted a Gaza-bound protest flotilla that was attempting to break Israel's naval blockade in support of the seaside enclave.

Meanwhile, rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza resumed this month for the first time since the unity deal was announced. Previously Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, vowed to curtail such attacks as a sign of cooperation with Fatah, which opposes violence against Israel.

"People are starting to retreat back into their old habits," said Diana Buttu, a former negotiator for the Fatah-led Palestine Liberation Organization. "Now it's almost as though there was never any [unity] announcement."

So far, neither group is pushing very hard to resume top-level negotiations, which broke down last month in Cairo. At the same time, neither side has declared the unity deal to be dead.

"They both seem very comfortable with the situation as it is, with neither full-fledged war nor full-fledged peace," Buttu said.

Each side has different reasons for accepting the state of limbo, analysts and officials say.

Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has grown increasingly concerned that if he bring Hamas back into his government, he will alienate the U.S. and international community, which provides much of his funding, Palestinian officials say.

Abbas also appears concerned about the impact on the statehood-recognition initiative that he has said he will bring before the U.N. in September. Many Western governments, which are now debating whether to endorse Abbas' bid, view Hamas as a terrorist organization. The U.S. has threatened to cut financial support to a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, unless Hamas renounces violence and recognizes Israel.Read more.....

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