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No hope left

No hope left

The likely imminent failure of factional talks will leave the Palestinian national cause crippled and domestic rifts deepened, writes Saleh Al-Naami


"I challenge Ismail Haniyeh or Mahmoud Abbas to be able to live under the circumstances I do for just three days. I'm certain that if they experienced my circumstances for just this short time, they would end the dialogue farce so as to put an end to this miserable reality," says journalist Mohamed Al-Jamal, whose house in the southern Gaza Strip's Rafah City was destroyed on the second day of the recent Israeli war on Gaza. Until now he has no shelter for himself and his family and has to stay with relatives.

Al-Jamal doesn't hesitate to hold Hamas and Fatah -- and their leaders -- responsible for the miserable situation he, his displaced family, and tens of thousands of other Palestinians are in. He told Al-Ahram Weekly, "If these leaders had the slightest sense of responsibility towards the Palestinian people, and particularly the families who have undergone the catastrophe of having their houses destroyed, they would have ended the rift between them and led the national dialogue to success."

Al-Jamal says that he is overcome with anger whenever he hears about the points of difference blocking a successful outcome to the dialogue, such as the voting system and the security agencies. "People don't have shelter, while the leaders are differing over elections and the security agencies, as though they were on another planet and as though the people weren't suffering a tragedy," he said.

Fury at factional leaders, and in particular those of Fatah and Hamas, is shared by most people in the Gaza Strip, knowing that reconstruction of what the occupation destroyed depends on a successful closure to the national dialogue. Mustafa Rashwan, 38, can still hardly believe that he lost his only means of living and his ability to provide for his family. He lost the barbershop he owned in Rafah City and hasn't been compensated. He is now on a constant, bitter search for a means to feed his family. In interview with the Weekly, Rashwan said that he considers the disputes between the factions nothing more than "luxury" and that he holds the governments of Gaza and Ramallah responsible for the pain of his family.

There practically isn't a person in the Gaza Strip who wasn't affected in the recent Israeli offensive. Gaza City shop owner Sobhi Abu Kar blame factional leaders for the fact that reconstruction has not yet begun. In interview with the Weekly, Abu Kar said that the points of difference preventing an agreement are marginal in comparison to the challenges of reconstruction and bringing Gaza back to life.

Unfortunately, all indicators suggest that the likelihood of the dialogue succeeding is very slim. Two Fatah leaders visited the Gaza Strip last week -- Central Committee member Abdullah Al-Afranji and Revolutionary Council member Marwan Abdel-Hamid. They met with representatives of other Palestinian movements in the Strip, most prominently Hamas, but their visit produced no outcome of note. A number of faction representatives who met with Al-Afranji and Abdel-Hamid say they were not authorised to reach agreements on pivotal issues. Meanwhile, the meeting scheduled for 26 April in Cairo between Fatah and Hamas representatives will likely end without results as no serious rapprochement has taken place between the two on key points of difference.

One Palestinian source told the Weekly that dialogue efforts are expected to come to a halt following the next meeting, and that he fears this will only further cement the domestic rift. Among the evidence supporting belief that the next dialogue round will end in failure is the fact that most of the Palestinian factions have rejected the Egyptian proposal to form a unified national council to serve as the political authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This would allow the Salam Fayyad government in Ramallah to function according to a programme committed to signed agreements and the conditions of the Quartet as long as Hamas doesn't oppose the decisions made by the Ramallah government.

Prominent Hamas figure Salah Al-Bardweil told the Weekly that Egypt made this proposal at the last moment during the most recent round of bilateral dialogue talks with Fatah in Cairo. Not all of the proposal's details were made clear, he says, which means that Hamas was not able to consider it carefully. In what can be considered an implicit rejection of the Egyptian proposal, Al-Bardweil stresses that Hamas remains insistent on its position with regards to the political programme. Hamas rejects the conditions of the Quartet that require all Palestinian governments to commit to the agreements signed between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel, to recognise Israel, and to renounce resistance against the occupation on the basis of it being "terrorism".

The link:

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2009/943/re01.htm

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