Fatah agreed Wednesday to an Egyptian-backed deal, but tension over the Goldstone report and deep distrust have left many skeptical.
In Ramallah Wednesday, Fatah officials initialed a preliminary agreement aimed at mending the rift with Hamas, though the Islamic militants balked – a sign that the conditions for reconciliation may not have ripened.
A powersharing deal is aimed at ending more than two years of divided rule between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza that has sapped Palestinian public morale, stymied the political system, and dimmed the prospects for achieving an agreement with Israel to establish a Palestinian state.
"The question is, if the Palestinians can't find reconciliation between ourselves, how can we reconcile with the Israelis?" asks Mohammed Dejani, a political science professor at Al Quds University. "People are fed up and tired, and there's a lot of despair."
Even though Palestinian public opinion is overwhelmingly behind a unity deal, the lingering bitterness and distrust between the groups has prevented an agreement despite several rounds of Egyptian mediation since the Hamas takeover in gaza in June 2007. The two sides are separated by a wide ideological rift, and each accuses the other of operating under the influence of foreign powers; Fatah under pressure from the US and Israel, and Hamas advised by Iran. Most recently, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's decision to postpone action on the UN-issued Goldstone report on the Gaza war sparked harsh criticism from Hamas.
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