The many shades of the Palestinian national unity government are
subtle. It is the Palestinian dream, so as to break the unjust
international economic siege against the Palestinian people. Hamas,
Fatah and all the Palestinian political factions are ready to join the
The national unity government, if achieved, would be considered a great Palestinian victory, for the hard political differences that have had to be overcome to achieve it. Palestinians are patiently waiting for the new government, hoping that it may stop the economic siege, reinstate international economic aid and accomplish a sort of peace, prosperity and stability.
But, will the National unity cabinet launch? Will the new cabinet be able to carry out its tasks as planned? Is it the final solution for the Hamas-led government crisis? Will the international community, the Quartet [for Mideast peace, made up of the U.S., the European Union, the United Nations and Russia] and the EU trust the new cabinet?!
The national unity government is considered as a renaissance for the Palestinian political system. The idea of national unity goes back to ex-president Yassar Arafat's era. Before the victory of the Hamas party in Palestinian legislative elections this past January, the idea had lain dormant. But after Hamas took office, the new Hamas ministers suggested the national unity government idea. The other Palestinian factions, particularly the previously-ruling Fatah party, refused to participate in a unity cabinet with Hamas, in an attempt to leave Hamas isolated in the government, unable even to pay salaries for the 165,000 civil employees. The rival parties hoped that Hamas would give up, but fortunately that didn’t happen. Instead, a national unity dialogue began to emerge.
Actually, the national unity government faced frequent obstacles during its creation process, and it will face the same and more severe obstacles after it is in place as well. One such obstacle is Ismail Haniyya, the current Palestinian Prime Minister, who was selected by the Hamas party, but is unwelcome internationally. But Haniyya announced recently that, despite the fact that he was democratically selected, he is willing to resign, if his resignation will lead to the lifting of the economic blockade.
“If the choice is between the siege on one hand, and the prime minister chair on the other, let the siege be lifted to end the suffering of the Palestinian people", stated Haniyya at a recent press conference.
There are a number of parties and factions, both nationally and internationally, who don’t want the national unity government to succeed. But there are other national, Arab and international parties who want it to go ahead successfully. These factions are at odds, therefore, it is expected the new cabinet will not be able to carry out its mission easily.
When Hamas won the legislative elections in January, the whole world was shocked — even the Arab world. Accordingly, a severe economic siege has been imposed upon the Palestinians as a punishment for their purely democratic choice. The national unity solution will not satisfy the international community — the US and Israel in particular. As a result, Israel will not keep silent, instead, it will create any pretext to stop the peace process in the Palestinian territories, or it may also launch military campaigns and incursions so as to increase tension and thus obstruct any possible moves toward peace.
However the new cabinet is made to please the international community, it might not be the fix-all solution, as Palestinians hope. The Quartet and the EU have unstable, highly-changeable positions — in the past, they have been known to back down from promises and agreements, especially in matters related to Israel. In fact, the EU may not trust the new Palestinian government even if it is custom-made to suit the demands that the EU has made.
The negotiations for the new unity government are still going on, though lots of risks and difficulties exist. But the talks now are “suspended, not collapsed”, according to the advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
One could speculate that the reasons for the current suspension reasons could be a failure of the major Palestinian factions to come to a compromise on some controversial issues like recognizing Israel and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 border.
Ultimately, I don’t think the 'age of national unity' will last long. Or perhaps it will die in its infancy, or even before its birth. I wish it could go on, but I just don't see any positive hope for that, even if the talks succeed and the national unity government is launched. For the national unity cabinet may solve the crisis of the imposed economic sanctions and the Western aid embargo on the Palestinian government, but national unity can never solve the major controversial Palestinian political issues.