NOTHING much remains of Palestine’s Legislative Council, its symbol of democracy and sovereignty-to-be. In the Gaza Strip, last year’s Israeli assault reduced the parliament building to rubble. In Ramallah, the government seat of the ruling Palestinian Authority (PA) on the West Bank, the bigger part of a would-be Palestinian state, Hamas members are barred from entry and its sessions suspended. Since the rival wings of the Palestinian national movement set up separate regimes in the summer of 2007, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president who leads Fatah, the longer-established secular faction, and Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Islamist movement, Hamas, have ruled their separate terrains as rival one-party fiefs more or less by decree.
巴勒斯坦立法议会，民主和主权的象征，未留下太多遗迹。去年以色列的空袭行动，将这幢位于迦萨走廊的议会大楼夷为平地。在Ramallah，巴勒斯坦最高当局在约旦河西岸（准巴勒斯坦国的最大片领土）的政府所在地，禁止哈马斯成员进入而立法会期亦被迫中止。自从2007年夏天，巴勒斯坦建国运动的敌对派系建立不同的政体，领导最早派系法塔赫的巴勒斯坦总统Mahmoud Abbas，以及哈马斯伊斯兰运动的总理Ismail Haniyeh，各自颁布法令统治自己的领土，成为几乎彼此敌对的一党独大封地。更多信息请访问：http://www.24en.com/
Some people think that both parties, hungry for power, jobs and foreign sponsors, prefer it this way. A united Palestine would have but one prime minister; divided, it has two. And it has two cabinets, two civil services and at least two sets of armed forces. Financial backers of the two groups, led by America and Iran, have poured in cash to prop up their respective proteges and prove that their side’s approach works better. The present and previous Israeli governments think a divided Palestine is easier to dominate, and hope that Egypt may take benighted Gaza, home to a million surly refugees, off their hands.
In early 2007 the leaders of Fatah and Hamas managed, under Saudi auspices, to agree to a national unity government, but it collapsed after a few months, prompting Hamas’s violent takeover of Gaza. Ever since, Palestinians have complained that reconciliation lies outside their hands. Regional rivalry between Egypt and Syria, and more broadly between the United States and Iran, has meant that a resolution of the Hamas-Fatah conflict depends largely on a rapprochement between their sponsors. In the meantime, various Western governments have told Mr Abbas that he will continue to get their cash only if he continues to ostracise Hamas.
And the suspicion is that Iran has warned Hamas against reconciliation. Outside attempts to mediate, mainly by Egypt but also by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have floundered. An Egyptian proposal has been set aside, mainly because Hamas objects to its demand that, pending elections, the Islamists should cede oversight of rebuilding Gaza to a steering committee under Mr Abbas’s aegis, while leaving the PA alone to govern the West Bank.
Seeing that outsiders are deadlocked as thoroughly as the Palestinians themselves, some senior Fatah and Hamas people are now trying to settle the two parties’ differences off their own bat. So far they are talking about small steps towards reconciliation. Hamas has let Fatah people who fled Gaza after the Hamas takeover return, and talked about stabilising Gaza in ways that do not threaten its hold. Hamas has also won Fatah’s agreement to share the running of Gaza’s football federation. Hamas has paid $3m of electricity bills into the PA’s coffers in Ramallah to ensure a steadier power supply. Hamas’s health minister has invited doctors affiliated to Fatah to return to their jobs without insisting that the PA must reciprocate in the West Bank.
In mid-April Hamas and Fatah held their first joint rally for three years, to protest against Israel for continuing to keep some 6,600 Palestinian militants in jail. Proving that foreign funding can heal wounds, an international bank has successfully sponsored local Fatah and Hamas officials to work together to build schools and clinics in Rafah, Gaza’s border town by the main crossing into Egypt.
Such conciliatory efforts are modest, but they may build confidence. Unlike Fatah’s leaders who could flee from Gaza to neighbouring states when they lost power, Hamas officials have nowhere to go. Many are exhausted by Israel’s continuing siege, but fear they would be inviting attack inside and out if they laid down their arms.
Many Palestinians long for the factions to make peace with each other so they can negotiate with the Israelis as a united group, and fear that the longer it is left to fester, the harder it will be to reverse the separation of territory and power. Already Gaza and the West Bank are run under separate legal systems and have separate foreign policies. Social divisions are growing too. Hamas stalwarts stop their children marrying into Fatah families, and their taxi-drivers steer clear of students from Gaza’s pro-Fatah university. Given such divisions, a gradual resolution of differences may be the best Palestinians can hope for.
Reaching a full-blown power-sharing agreement requires the backing of more powerful forces, including the Palestinian security men and the foreign backers who pay for them. Back in 2007 foreign support for a short-lived Hamas-Fatah unity agreement evaporated when Hamas equivocated over whether its tentative acceptance of past agreements made by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the national umbrella group, meant it actually recognised Israel. This time many rank-and-file Palestinians hope that, if a new unity government took shape, Western paymasters would accept a commitment to past PLO agreements by the unity government, rather than specifically by the Hamas faction within it. After all, the Palestinians claim self-servingly, no one asked Israel’s ruling Likud party, led by Binyamin Netanyahu, to accept a two-state settlement as a condition for being internationally recognised when it took power; after a few months he, but not his party, grudgingly did so. If the latest talks gain ground, Hamas may change its rejectionist tune.
The Americans are not at present inclined to try dragging Hamas into the equation, arguing that it would only hobble current efforts to kick-start negotiations between Israel and the more amenable Palestinians. But it is widely recognised that, in the end, a longer-term deal must include Gaza as well.
Previous attempts to dislodge Hamas by siege and war have failed. A growing number of outside policymakers seeking a two-state solution—and quite a few within Israel—think it is time to look at new ways to bring Hamas in. As the stalemate persists, the big losers, as ever, are the Palestinian people themselves.