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Hopelessness takes hold

Hopelessness takes hold

Hopelessness takes hold

While insults across the Palestinian rift continue to be traded, ordinary Palestinians see the national cause suffer at a time otherwise ripe for international solidarity, writes Saleh Al-Naami

Jamal Hussein, 39, couldn't find the words to console his wife when her hopes of leaving the Gaza Strip were dashed. They were supposed to travel to a hospital in Jordan for a procedure that would put an end to 15 years of suffering due to her inability to conceive. Hussein is a teacher in a Gaza City school and was hoping to take advantage of the summer holiday to have the procedure done in mid-July. Until 7 July, he had hoped that an agreement putting an end to the Palestinian domestic rift would be signed, and that this would lead to the Rafah Crossing being reopened as Egyptian officials had promised. "Following the close of the sixth dialogue round, it became clear that it was impossible for the two sides to reach an agreement, and that as a result my wife and I would have to wait another year hoping that conditions improve and that we'll be granted an opportunity to have this procedure done," he told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Hassan Al-Zari, 28, lives in Deir Al-Balah City in the central Gaza Strip. He holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, and following immense efforts won a grant to a Canadian university to pursue his graduate studies. Last month he tried to leave the Gaza Strip to travel via Cairo airport but he was unable to cross the border into Egypt. Officials in the Gaza Strip's Interior Ministry say that priority is given to individuals suffering from serious, chronic diseases, and to those with residency abroad. Travel is permitted for cases such as Hassan's only during a very limited period in which Egypt allows the border to be reopened. "I can hardly believe this," Al-Zari told the Weekly. "Obtaining a grant to study in a Canadian university was my life's dream, and now that it's been granted, the crossing has become my barrier."

Inshirah Ribah, 41, is a Palestinian who was born and raised in Libya and who married a Palestinian teacher from the Gaza Strip who was working in Libya. She now lives in Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp in the central Gaza Strip and hasn't seen her family in five years. In late July her youngest sister is going to marry a Palestinian living in Egypt, and although she wants to attend the wedding it seems impossible that she will be able to due to the crossing's closure. Like so many others, Inshirah blames her situation on the continued Palestinian domestic rift that grants external parties justification for besieging the Gaza Strip and isolating it from the rest of the world.

Lack of hope that the domestic rift may end and unity be restored has become a dominant feature of commentary in Gaza. Palestinians no longer hold any hope that the next dialogue rounds will produce a breakthrough leading to a final agreement. Mohamed Al-Shamali, 46, owns an electrical appliance store in the Al-Ramal neighbourhood of Gaza City, but since he can't stand sitting in his shop as long as there are no customers at the door, he closes it and goes to exchange sarcastic quips with the owners of neighbouring shops instead. One of these joked as he exhaled cigarette smoke, "All that remains is for the states of Gaza and the West Bank to recognise each other, exchange ambassadors, and begin signing commercial, trade and other bilateral agreements."

Indeed, the gap between the two sides' positions has widened and the war of insults between them remains ongoing. Spokesperson for the security agencies in the West Bank Adnan Al-Damiri says that Hamas has spent millions of dollars to establish a security apparatus in the West Bank. He says that West Bank security agencies seized $8.5 million illegally entering the Palestinian territories over the last five months, in addition to large caches of arms and explosives in Nablus, Hebron and Qalqilya.

Hamas figure Ayman Taha says that such statements are an "attempt to justify striking at the movement and doing away with it, and are evidence of the West Bank security agencies trying to make the national dialogue fail." In a statement to the Weekly, Taha said that the funds Al-Damiri had spoken of belonged to charitable organisations that "support the families of martyrs and prisoners, the orphans and the weak. These kinds of measures make these families' situations further deteriorate."

Taha says these measures have come at a time when the Salam Fayyad government is pursuing the resistance, arresting resistance fighters and seizing weapons. He holds Al-Damiri's comments as an example of "fabricating lies aimed at justifying the failure of the dialogue and granting excuses for continued targeting of Hamas in the West Bank," although he also believes that efforts to do away with Hamas will fail. Taha says that talk by the Fayyad government and its security agencies of Hamas planning a coup in the West Bank sounds like a "cracked record", and he questions: "If the Palestinian Authority [PA] is pursuing Hamas activists because they are planning a coup, then why are Islamic Jihad activists also being pursued?" He believes Hamas is being targeted due to its role in the resistance.

Deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Hassan Khureisheh has revealed that President Mahmoud Abbas has suggested that Hamas mandate five ministers to participate in a prospective national accord government, on condition that they represent their personal points of view and not the political views of Hamas. In a statement to the Weekly, Khureisheh clarified that Abbas made this offer during his recent meeting with PLC Speaker Aziz Duweik in Ramallah, and that he asked Hamas to name five ministers capable of adopting positions different to those of Hamas. They would have to accept the conditions stipulated by the Quartet, most prominently commitment to the agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), recognition of Israel, and renouncement of resistance on the basis of it being terrorism. Abbas justified his request by saying that only a government of this colour would be capable of lifting the siege on Gaza and overseeing its reconstruction.

Khureisheh says that during the meeting Abbas refused to enter the argument between Fatah and Hamas over Duweik being the speaker of the PLC following statements of PLC Hamas bloc leader Azzam Al-Ahmed, who said that the bloc no longer considers Duweik speaker. Khureisheh also says that Abbas denies that the security agencies have arrested anyone on the basis of their political and organisational affiliations, but rather only due to their possession of arms and "political money".

Abbas stresses that he has issued orders for no one to be mistreated during their detention or interrogation. According to Khureisheh, he and Duweik have confirmed to Abbas that these orders had been issued, but that the security agencies simply don't follow them. "We have told Abbas that most of those released from PA prisons in the West Bank have shown signs of being severely tortured." Khureisheh is pessimistic about the dialogue succeeding, saying that the dispute between Fatah and Hamas is not limited to the political programme but has grown to threaten personal interests in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Action and reaction has become the leading feature of relations between the Fatah and Hamas authorities.

It is ironic that the prospects for Palestinian dialogue have plummeted at the time Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has restated impossible conditions for agreeing to the establishment of a Palestinian state. He has again stipulated that the Palestinians recognise Israel as the state of the Jewish people, that they agree to solve the issue of refugees outside the borders of Israel, that Jerusalem remain the unified capital of Israel, and that any Palestinian state is demilitarised. In other words, at a time that many Palestinians were placing their hopes on Netanyahu's rightwing government being isolated due to its extremist positions, the Palestinian rift allows Netanyahu to hold tight to his stances with a minimum of pressure from the international community. Thus the Palestinians who were betting on a settlement have lost a negotiations battle while Palestinians who believe in resistance as a strategic option are consumed with efforts towards the lifting of the Gaza siege.

The link: http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2009/955/re4.htm