After a long winter – actually, after several years of winters – the Palestinians today have taken an important step towards national liberation, self-determination, and the overthrow of the yoke of Israeli sovereignty. The twin announcements of a Hamas-Fateh reconciliation (albeit fragile) and an interim national unity government in anticipation of elections (albeit under occupation and siege) breathe fresh air into the lungs of Palestinians and of those Israeli Jews who desire to be free of their bondage as overlords. Indeed, all for whom the Palestinian cause is dear – that is, all decent, freedom-loving people – can only rejoice at these signs of Palestinian unity and purpose.
That does not mean that there are no potential problems with the reconciliation. Neither Hamas nor Fateh has shown itself to be responsive to the rights of Palestinian and the independence of Palestinian civil society. I, for one, would like to see a third force emerge that would be composed of both factions but would also pledge allegiance – and not just lip service -- to the democracy movement sweeping the Middle East. Civil society folks on the ground will have to see whether the new government cares about itself and its ideological agenda, or about empowering the Palestinian people.
But with this caveat, I am cautiously optimistic that the unification of the Palestinian people – not only within Occupied Palestine but throughout the Palestinian diaspora -- will pay dividends in the short and long term.
In the short term, I hope it will end the dependency of the Palestinian Authority on the Americans, especially in terms of the security cooperation that pits Palestinian against Palestinian in the service of Israel. Already we are hearing that the United States may cut its funding to the PA because of the presence of Hamas. If that eventuality occurs (and it is difficult to think that the US can be so stupid, but one can only hope), the US will lose a lot of its influence with the Palestinians, and will become pretty much irrelevant within Israel/Palestine – to which one can only add, in shallah. This may split the Americans from the Quarter, who will feel emboldened to try its own diplomacy. And, of course, with Prime Minister Netanyahu saying that he will not negotiate with the new government (as if it was willing to negotiate seriously with any Palestinian government!) it is back to the 80s before the Oslo trap was sprung.
In the long term, only a united Palestinian people can hope to stand up for its rights against a superpower like Israel and the support it gets from the United States.
With the Palestinians now (gingerly) united, steps like declaring independence will be even more representative of the will of the people. US influence in Israel-Palestine will wane, the Israelis will be further isolated, and the Oslo process will be jettisoned, once and for all.
And there is hope that some Israelis will embrace this double liberation – the first, of the Palestinians from the Israelis, and the second, of the Israelis from themselves, and from their neurotic addiction to land, tribe, and power.