The two major Palestinian political parties, Fateh and Hamas, have announced that they are in the final stages of negotiation on a national unity agreement, and will formally institute the unity government on June 6th.Israel and the US have both expressed discomfort with the idea of a national unity government, and the Israeli Prime Minister and other officials have stated that they will not negotiate with any Palestinian national government, as they consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization due to the group’s previous involvement in attacks against Israeli civilians.
Hamas has not been involved in attacks on Israeli civilians since 2005, and in 2006 was elected in democratic elections to lead the Palestinian government. Although they formed a government in the Gaza Strip, they were prevented from doing the same in the West Bank, where the Israeli-supported Fateh government took power.
Since that time, the two parties have been at odds, with in-fighting claiming some 200 lives over the last four years. Several previous attempts at national unity governments, including a call by political prisoners led by Fateh activist Marwan Barghouthi, were unsuccessful at bringing about a unity government.
Now, officials from both major parties say that the leadership for the new government has been selected, and will be submitted to the Palestinian Legislative Council. After a two hour meeting in Gaza City, at the house of Hamas leader and elected Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, representatives from the two parties said the new government will be made up of representatives from both parties, serving a term of one year.
Nabil Sha’ath, of the Fateh party, called the agreement a “good and positive sign”, and Haniyeh of Hamas agreed, telling reporters after the meeting that he believed the national unity government was a “strategic option and a national necessity”.
Israeli government officials withheld some of the Palestinian Authority’s funds, which the Israeli government controls, upon the announcement of a national unity government. The funds have since been released, but Israeli officials say they will again withhold the money if the government is put in place.
The Palestinian government, regardless of its makeup, does not control any actual nation, but two distinct territories, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which remain under Israeli military occupation. The Israeli military controls all aspects of life in the Occupied Territories, including birth and death certification, marriage, vehicle registration, courts, passport issuance, border control, control of movement within the Territories, which is severely restricted, and virtually every other aspect of governance.