Media divided over Palestinian unity deal

image copyrightAFP
image captionPalestinians in Gaza City celebrated the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas

Palestinian and Israeli media have very different perspectives on the announcement that the rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, have agreed to form a unity government.

Palestinian comment

Most Palestinian commentators welcome the deal, though some urge caution in the light of the failure of previous attempts at reconciliation.

Writing in the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority's newspaper, Al-Hayat al-Jadidah, Yahya Khalaf says that the deal invalidates an argument regularly used by Israel, which can "no longer talk of the absence of a partner representing the entire Palestinian people".

In the rival Palestinian camp, an adviser to the Hamas-led government in Gaza points out that the agreement still has to be tested on the ground. Writing on the Hamas website Filastin Online, Youssef Rizqa says that the deal will strengthen Palestinian dealings with Israel only if it is "a genuine partnership that will take our people out of a dark tunnel".

Two commentators in the pro-Fatah paper Al-Ayyam are also cautious. Talal Awkal says further progress will require "very strong determination on the part of the Palestinians", while Abdul Majid Suwaylim predicts that many difficulties still lie ahead, as there are "no easy solutions to complicated problems".

Some Palestinian papers also refer to the reactions of the US and Israeli governments.

The Jerusalem-based paper, Al-Quds, notes Washington's expression of "disappointment" that the deal could seriously complicate peace talks, while Al-Hayat al-Jadidah says that Israel's immediate reaction to the announcement was to bomb Gaza.

The announcement is covered prominently in the Israeli press, with several papers highlighting the Israeli government's profound unease at a deal that could signal the end of disunity in the Palestinian camp.

Alex Fishman, writing in the centrist paper Yedioth Aharonot, speaks of the Israeli leadership "exploding with anger". He goes on to say that Benjamin Netanyahu's government will find it impossible to accept Hamas as a negotiating partner, and that it will insist that the US takes a firm line to ensure that the Islamist movement is not granted international respectability.

"Now the ball is in the United States' court - if there is no blunt American reaction, this will be the start of a diplomatic landslide that will lead to the recognition of Hamas by Western countries," Mr Fishman warns.

Commentators in the liberal paper Haaretz take a rather more positive view of the Fatah-Hamas deal, pointing out that the new alignment could help to kick-start the Middle East peace talks after years of stalemate.

Zvi Barel says that the agreement "passes a sharp message to Israel and US that the division of Palestine is over" and that they must deal with Hamas.

And Barak Ravid says that Israeli should "rejoice" at any deal that has the potential to bring all the Palestinian factions on board. He argues that any Israeli government that is sincere about wanting to achieve a two-state solution should "see the reconciliation agreement as an opportunity, not a threat".

A commentator in the pro-Netanyahu paper Yisrael Harom, on the other hand, sees the deal as an act of desperation on the part of the leaders of Fatah and Hamas. Eyal Zisser says that it is hard to see how the long-standing differences between Fatah and Hamas can be reconciled, and that "one must not assume that the unity government - if it is formed at all - will survive".

An Israeli Arab commentator, Khaled Abu Toameh, is also of the opinion that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decided to go for a reconciliation deal only after all other attempts to move the peace talks forward failed.

"Realising that his moves have had almost no impact on decision-makers in Israel and the US, Abbas finally resorted to the issue of reconciliation and unity with Hamas... Abbas has only one thing in mind: how to extract concessions from Israel and the US," Mr Toameh writes in the English-language Jerusalem Post.

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