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What needs to be solved for Fatah-Hamas reconciliation

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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.

Trust is most lacking on several key issues, including new elections, who controls security in the West Bank and Gaza, whether Hamas's military wing will be disarmed, and how power will be shared in the Palestinian government and the Palestine Liberation Organization – long dominated by Fatah. Khalil Shaheen, an editor of the Al Ayyam newspaper in Ramallah, says the Egyptian-brokered plan uses vague wording on some issues in an attempt to secure approval from both sides. While such an approach may lead to an agreement, it could delay reconciliation in practice and thus defer benefits for both sides.

What Hamas, Fatah would gain from reconciliation

For Hamas, an agreement could ease the international political boycott on the organization and shift pressure on Israel to end an economic blockade of the coastal strip that has largely cut off Gaza's 1.5 million residents from the rest of the world. But it is also wary of Fatah security officers returning to Gaza.

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