Palestinians Optimistic on Hamas-Fatah Unity Deal

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Palestinians see the Hamas-Fatah unity deal to be signed in Cairo today as strengthening their push for statehood. But they say that reconciliation will be a year-long project at least.

As the two leading Palestinian factions came together in Cairo today to sign a reconciliation pact, Palestinians are optimistic that the Arab Spring may help mend a four-year split and strengthen their push for statehood.

"The opinion of all Palestinians is to get united. It brings them a sense of power, and a sense of strength, and a sense of unity to be able to deal with Israel," says Bassem Ezbedi, a political science professor at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank. He acknowledged that there are "all sorts of obstacles," some of which could be "explosive."

Indeed, just as Arab countries around the region are grappling with new forms of government, Palestinians understand that achieving harmony between the Islamist militant rulers of the Gaza and the Western-backed secular party that controls the West Bank will be a year-long project at least.

Hamas-Fatah divide evident over bin Laden's death

Fundamental differences persist between Hamas and Fatah, as underscored by their contradictory responses to Osama bin Laden's death this week.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Monday praised Osama Bin Laden as an Arab "holy warrior," and condemned the US raid that killed him. The Fatah-dominated PA welcomed his death, however, with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad saying he hoped it marked "the beginning of the end for this dark era."

Two opposing security doctrines

Despite sounding upbeat about the reconciliation deal, politicians from Fatah and Hamas give differing interpretations of what it means for Hamas's doctrine of armed uprising against Israel or the Palestinian Authority's security coordination with Israel.

Sheikh Fadel Hamdan, a Hamas legislator in the West Bank, said that Hamas would only give up the right to armed "resistance" against Israel at "the final stage" of an agreement. (Hamas has said it is willing to consider an open-ended cease fire with Israel but not a conclusive peace treaty.) He called the PA and Israel's security cooperation "problematic," arguing that it doesn't help the Palestinian people.

Azzam Abu Baker, a Fatah official, says the security coordination with Israel is a necessary fact of life aimed at preventing Israel's military from overrunning Palestinian cities in the West Bank. As for Hamas' armed militia, he asserted that the unity agreement doesn't allow either side to act unilaterally against Israel.

Prof. Ezbeidi says that merging two opposing security doctrines is only one of a myriad of issues that could doom the agreement. …