Palestine Begins Process of Unification
By admin November 2, 2017

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Yesterday marked another major step in the unification of Palestine, as the Palestinian Authority took control over Gaza Strip crossings from Hamas. This was a primary step in the historic peace agreement struck in mid October between Hamas and Fatah. Although the agreement has held steady so far, the future will bring considerable difficulties that the unified government must overcome. However, a successful transition is paramount, as experts believe it is a requirement for peace in the region to ever become a reality.

Between 2006 and 2007, the Palestinian Civil War divided the government through political violence that killed hundreds of Palestinians. Through a violent takeover, Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip and its border crossings, leaving Fatah and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in control of the West Bank. After several failed attempts to bring both factions back together, a deal was struck in Cairo on October 12th to combine both parties in a united Palestinian front. Along with control over border crossings, the PNA will be responsible for the security of the Gaza strip, which will be a strenuous part of the process, as the military wing of the Hamas has fought resolutely for the past decade. Just a few days ago, Israel destroyed a cross border tunnel in Gaza that killed eight Islamic Jihadi militants, testing the fortitude of Hamas and its affiliates. The party has decided not to escalate against Israel to save the agreement because Hamas on the offensive against Israel would ruin the ability for the Palestinian Authority to efficiently take over security responsibilities. This shows significant restraint by Hamas officials and the extent to which they believe in this new agreement.

Hamas’ motivation is underwritten by the economic gains Gaza will experience under the new agreement. The area was isolated by the West Bank after sanctions this past year reduced the already low income of the region and access to electricity that crippled economic activity. Egypt is also ready to reduce cargo restrictions into Gaza and allow citizens to cross the border, which would be a huge development for the people in the area who cannot leave without paying thousands of dollars in bribes or through travel documents that are almost impossible to attain.

Many advocates of the Middle East peace process hope this will allow for negotiations to go ahead in establishing a two state solution with Israel. However, even if integration is successful, Israel will play hardball and demand further compromises, such as recognizing Israel, disarming Hamas militants, and entering international agreements accepted by nations around the world. These requirements will be difficult for many Palestinians, especially within Hamas, to accept. It could still be many years until the political environment is suitable for negotiations to begin between the new Palestinian government and Israel.

Further Reading:

Unity Deal Offers Hope for Palestinians and a Respite for Gaza

Palestinians paying thousands in bribes to leave Gaza

Gaza Tunnel Strike: Hamas Puts Palestinian Unity Before Revenge

UN envoy welcomes full return of Gaza border crossings to Palestinian Authority

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