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Why Israel and Obama should welcome Hamas-Fatah reconciliation

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In protests in March, tens of thousands of young people in both Palestinian territories demanded a democratic government that can unite the West Bank and Gaza. Police in Gaza used violence to suppress the protests. In the West Bank, the demonstrations were directed at Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Fatah, who is also the Palestinian Authority president.

This public pressure helps explain the surprise deal reached Wednesday by Hamas and Fatah. The tentative reconciliation pact, brokered by Egypt and scheduled to be formally signed May 4, aims to set up an interim government of independent technocrats that would hold presidential and parliamentary elections by the end of the year.

If the accord holds – and that’s a big if, given the failure of two similar deals since 2007 – it might allow Palestinians to again speak as one.

That’s important to solve one of the region’s most intractable problems. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not only a drag on the Middle East but, as Gen. David Petraeus warned last year, “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of US partnerships with governments and peoples.”

Mr. Abbas appears to have given up on President Obama’s ability to mediate a peace deal. Instead, he now plans to ask the United Nations General Assembly in September to grant international recognition of a Palestinian state. But his goal almost requires Palestinian unity, even if tenuous.

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