Deja vu detente

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, middle, speaks during a meeting with the Palestinian Central Council, a top decision-making body, at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, April 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

The reconciliation deal announced last week by Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas has generated a storm of angry and worried reactions in Washington and Tel Aviv – as well as a very different reaction among Palestinians themselves.

Much of the media focus has centered on the fate of the “peace talks,” the periodic meetings between Israeli and Palestinian officials that are often derailed by unilateral Israeli decisions on expanding settlements, or the release of Palestinian prisoners and detainees.

While Palestinian politicians will certainly gauge the U.S. and Israeli reactions, they should also mind the reactions of their domestic audience, the people whose lives might be affected by a reconciliation.

Many such deals to bring Fatah and Hamas together have been forged in the past, as Arab countries take turns hosting the talks and announcing the latest detente.

The Palestinian people may be forgiven for being highly skeptical about the ultimate fate of last week’s upbeat pronouncements, based on past failures. They are also desperate to experience change, and not just the coming-together, yet again, of the two rival movements.

It’s no secret that corruption, mismanagement and a lack of accountability have plagued the Palestinian Authority and Hamas-ruled Gaza, and ordinary Palestinians are waiting to see how the latest unity announcement – if it actually goes forward – can be translated into solutions to real-world problems.

Officials from Fatah and Hamas might be pleased to see that their announcement has rattled the Israelis and the Americans, but unless they follow through with serious actions they will only end up disappointing their people again.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 28, 2014, on page 7.




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