Arab News (Editorial)
March 9, 2009 - 12:00am§ion=0&article=120038&d=9&m=3&y=2009

In tendering his resignation, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has done what few politicians do: He has given up his post for a cause he truly believes in. The resignation, of Fayyad’s own free will, was a noble gesture for righteous goals - that of improving the chances of a possible unity government of Fatah and Hamas, an end to the fractious situation that has paralyzed and polarized Palestinian life, and more hope for the peace process leading to an eventual state for a people living under the yoke of a cruel occupation.

Previous attempts at unity had collapsed in acrimony, but there is a clear determination this time not felt previously. Starting tomorrow, Hamas and Fatah are to continue working on forming a government, holding new elections, reforming the security services, carrying out confidence-building measures and finding a role for Hamas in the Palestine Liberation Organization. The talks are to go on for 10 days, but the two sides are to keep going after that if there is no agreement.

The tasks are daunting but all those involved know there is no longer any alternative to compromise. The Palestinian desire for reconciliation has grown more acute since Israel’s three-week military aggression in Gaza.

Hamas, which still controls Gaza, needs Fatah’s international legitimacy to help obtain foreign funding to rebuild Gaza and end the crippling border blockade. Last week’s donor promise of $5.2 billion for Gaza reconstruction at a pledging conference in Egypt serves plenty of incentive.

Meanwhile, the support at home for President Abbas has eroded steadily, both because of his perceived lack of decisiveness during the Gaza war and because his yearlong peace talks with Israel have been barren of any results.

Also, Benjamin Netanyahu’s nomination as Israel’s prime minister has sounded alarm bells and should help speed up reconciliation. A right-wing government poised to take power in Israel gives Palestinians of all political hues incentive enough to rally around the flag.

The decision of Fayyad should have come as welcome news for Hamas that had demanded his departure. After all Fayyad was heading a government Hamas deemed illegal and unconstitutional. He is thus regarded by Hamas as a bogus premier working in a pseudo government which replaced, by force, the genuine administration that was Hamas’ after their parliamentary election victory in 2006.

That Fayyad deferred should land him applause, not the dismissive reaction given by Hamas. Fayyad could have, after all, asked Abbas to find somebody else. He could have stayed put and challenged Hamas to come up with a unity government with him aboard.

While Hamas’ reaction to Fayyad’s resignation was one of indifference, it is not clear what the reaction of the international community will be. Will they continue to send the aid promised to an administration headed by Fayyad?

But the point not to be missed here is that Fayyad’s decision has removed one major obstacle to the formation of a Palestinian unity government from Hamas’ point of view. A more important point is that he would not have agreed to quit unless he was convinced that the international community was rethinking its position on a Palestinian government with the participation of Hamas.


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