News from Palestine and Palestinian people: Six dead, 100 injured as Israeli troops clash with Palestinian protesters
- Six dead, 100 injured as Israeli troops clash with Palestinian protesters
AFP From: AFP June 06, 2011 1:09AM
THE Israeli army shot dead six people and wounded 100 others on the border with Syria on Sunday as youths tried to climb a barbed wire fence in the Golan Heights, Syrian state television reported.
The military said soldiers fired at demonstrators after warning them to back away from the fence, which marks the cease-fire line along the Golan Heights.
''Despite numerous warnings, both verbal and later warning shots in the air, dozens of Syrians continue to approach the border and IDF (Israel Defense Forces) forces were left with no choice but to open fire towards the feet of protesters in efforts to deter further actions,'' a spokesman told AFP.
Some 500 Palestinians were reported to have gathered at Syria's border with Israel to mark Naksa Day, the anniversary of the start of the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
The clashes occurred at a site known by Palestinians as ''The Hill of Shouting'', where some 180 refugees crossed the border three weeks ago.
Israeli security forces were on high alert from early Sunday ahead of the demonstrations, called by Palestinian activists to mark the 44th anniversary of the Six Day War.
Activists urged protesters to surge Israeli checkpoints and borders in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as Palestinians remembered the war, which saw Israel take control of east Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights.
Ahead of the anniversary, the Israeli army deployed extra troops along the Lebanese border as well as along the ceasefire lines in the Golan Heights, AFP reported.
The protests come as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel was weighing a French proposal for a peace conference to be held in Paris by the end of July.
But Netanyahu said he would not deal with a Palestinian Authority which included Hamas.
The French foreign minister Alain Juppe has announced that France is willing to extend a scheduled meeting of international leaders into a broader peace conference in July, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas told France he is ready to attend the Paris peace conference if Israel accepts to talks based on the 1967 borders, an aide told AFP on Sunday.
Israeli forces fire at 'Naksa' protesters
At least 11 reportedly killed along Syrian frontier during pro-Palestinian rally marking "Day of Defeat" in 1967 war.
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2011 09:52
Israeli forces have opened fire along the Syrian frontier to disperse a large crowd of pro-Palestinian demonstrators attempting to breach the border.
At least 11 protesters were killed, including a 12-year-old boy, and 220 others were wounded as they marched from the Golan Heights on Sunday, Syrian state TV said.
The crowd had approached the border on Sunday, a day observed as "Naksa day" or "Day of Defeat", marking the 44th anniversary of the 1967 war, when Israel occupied the area.
Protesters, most of them young men, eventually managed to cut through coils of barbed wire marking the frontier, entering a buffer zone and crawling toward a second fence guarded by Israeli troops.
Every so often, demonstrators were seen evacuating a dead or wounded protester.
Mustafa Barghouthi, an independent Palestinian politician, told Al Jazeera: "What we saw in the Golan heights, in front of the checkpoint to Jerusalem, were peaceful Palestinian demonstrators demanding their freedom and the end of occupation, which has become the longest in modern history.
"And they were encountered by terrible violence from Israel. They have used gunshots, tear gas, sound bombs and canisters emanating dangerous chemicals against demonstrators," he said.
"They also beat us. I was one of those who was beaten today by the Israel soldiers today while we were peacefully trying to reach the checkpoint to Jerusalem."
Ghayath Awad, a 29-year-old Palestinian who had been shot in the waist, told the AP news agency at a hospital: "We were trying to cut the barbed wire when the Israeli soldiers began shooting directly at us."
Mohammed Hasan, a 16-year old student wounded in both feet, said: "We want on this occasion to remind America and the whole world that we have a right to return to our country,'' he said.
The recent protests are designed to draw attention to the plight of Palestinian refugees who fled or were expelled from their homes during Israel's war of independence in 1948. Now, around half a million Palestinian refugees live across 13 camps in Syria.
Avital Leibovich, the Israeli army's spokesman, told Al Jazeera: "We (the military) saw near 12 noon an angry mob of a few hundreds of Syrians trying to reach the border fence between Israel and Syria.
"We did three steps. We first warned them verbally, we told them not to get close to the fence in order for them not to endanger their lives," Leibovich said.
"When this failed, we fired warning shots into the air. When this failed, we had to open fire selectively at their feet in order to prevent an escalation."
Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons, reporting from Jerusalem, said Israeli forces opened fire in the air, but made no comment on any casualties.
"Although Syrian television is reporting casualties, there is no way of verifying it at this stage," he said.
"But we have seen this advance of a large number of protesters who managed to breach one line of razor wire and then effectively got positioned in the centre of it all in a trench area.
The Israeli military accused the Syrian government of instigating the protests to deflect attention from its bloody crackdown of a popular uprising at home.
"This is an attempt to divert international attention from the bloodbath going on in Syria,'' said Leibovich.
Israel had vowed to prevent a repeat of a similar demonstration last month, in which hundreds of people burst across the border into Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.
More than a dozen people were killed in that unrest, in which protesters had gathered to mark the 63rd anniversary of the "Nakba day", to mark the expulsion of an estimated 700,000 Palestinians following Israel's 1948 declaration of statehood.
Are Palestinian children less worthy?
Although Palestinian children endure lives of suffering, Obama's love for their Israeli counterparts knows no limit.
Joseph Massad Last Modified: 30 May 2011 14:47
What is it about Jewish and Arab children that privileges the first and spurns the second in the speeches of President Barack Obama, let alone in the Western media more generally? Are Jewish children smarter, prettier, whiter? Are they deserving of sympathy and solidarity, denied to Arab children, because they are innocent and unsullied by the guilt of their parents, themselves often referred to as "the children of Israel"? Or, is it that Arab children are dangerous, threatening, guilty, even dark and ugly, a situation that can only lead to Arabopaedophobia - the Western fear of Arab children?
Innocence and childhood are common themes in Western political discourse, official and unofficial. While it is a truism to state that since the end of European colonialism the US and Europe have been, at the official and unofficial levels, friendly to and supportive of the Zionist colonial project and hostile to Palestinians and Arabs in their resistance to Zionism, the expectation would be that a West that insists rhetorically on the "universalism" of its values would show at least a rhetorical commitment to the equality of Arab and Jewish children as victims of the violence visited on the region by Zionist colonialism and the resistance to it. Yet, the only Western sympathy manifest is to Jewish children as symbols of Zionist and Israeli innocence. This Western sympathy is deployed primarily to denounce Arab guilt, including the guilt of Arab children.
Indeed, the only time Arab children received any sympathy at all in the West was a few years ago when Israeli and US propaganda outlets, official and unofficial alike, mounted a major propaganda campaign to save these children from their barbaric Arab and Palestinian parents, who allegedly trained them to commit violent acts, or who unlovingly placed them in the middle of danger, sacrificing them for their violent political goals. It was not Israel who was to blame for killing Palestinian children, but the children's own uncaring and cruel parents who placed them in the path of Israeli Jewish bullets, which left Israeli Jews no choice but to kill them. This of course is an old Israeli casuistry used to justify Israel's carnage of Palestinians. Golda Meir had famously articulated the workings of Israel's Jewish conscience thus: "We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours."
In the official discourse of post-World War II US power, Jewish children have been often invoked to illustrate the innocence of Israel, a tradition carried faithfully by Barack Obama's rhetoric. Refusing to even acknowledge Arab children as victims of Israel, on June 4, 2009, Obama told Arabs in his Cairo speech: "It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered." He reiterated this in his May 19, 2011 "winds of change" speech, declaring: "For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could get blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them."
The ruined village Palestinians will never forget
The ruins of Lifta are the final remains of the Palestinian hamlets that fringed Jerusalem until 1948. Now plans to bulldoze them are causing outrage
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 29 May 2011 23.17 BST
In the soft golden light of a late spring evening, as yellow flowers are beginning to bloom on giant cacti, Yacoub Odeh climbs up through knee-high grass to the ruin that was his childhood home. For a man in his eighth decade, he is surprisingly nimble as he navigates ancient stones that litter the ground. But behind his light step is the weight of painful memories of a lost youth and a fading history.
"Here is my house," he says, sitting on the remains of a stone wall in whose crevices wild flowers and saplings cling. "Now only the corners remain. Here is the taboun [outdoor oven] where my mother used to bake bread. The smell!"
With distant eyes, he describes an idyllic childhood in a place he calls paradise, where families helped one another and children played freely amid almond and fig trees and on the rocks around the village's natural spring.
The place is Lifta, an Arab village on the north-western fringes of Jerusalem, for centuries a prosperous, bustling community built around agriculture, traditional embroidery, trade and mutual support. But since 1948, shortly before the state of Israel was declared, it has been deserted. The population, according to the Palestinian narrative of that momentous year, was expelled by advancing Jewish soldiers; the people abandoned their homes, say the Israeli history books.
Lifta was one of hundreds of Arab villages taken over by the embryonic Jewish state. But it is the only one not to have been subsequently covered in the concrete and tarmac of Israeli towns and roads, or planted over with trees and shrubs to create forests, parks and picnic areas, or transformed into Israeli artists' colonies. Some argue that Israel set out to erase any vestige of Palestinian roots in the new country.
Now, 63 years on, the ruins of Lifta are finally facing the threat of bulldozers and concrete mixers. A long-term proposal to sell the state-owned land for the construction of luxury housing units and a boutique hotel on the site is awaiting the authorities' final approval. It has caused a furore. Opponents of the plan include those who believe Lifta should be preserved as a monument to history; those who want to retain its charming environs as a rambling spot; and those – Odeh among them – who insist that one day they will return and reclaim their homes.
For many Palestinians, Lifta is a symbol of the Nakba, literally the "catastrophe", of 1948 in which 700,000 people were dispossessed. It embodies their longing for their land, and their bitterness at their continued refugee status. It is, wrote Palestinian author Ghada Karmi in a letter to the Los Angeles Times, "a physical memory of injustice and survival".
The development plan was approved by the Jerusalem municipality five years ago, but earlier this year the Israel Lands Administration – the state agency that took ownership of Lifta's land under the Israeli law governing property deemed to be abandoned – began marketing the plot to private developers. A legal challenge stayed the tender process, but a decision is due any day on whether to proceed. The proposal is for 212 luxury housing units, expected to be advertised to wealthy expatriate Jews, a chic hotel and shops, and a museum. It suggests that some of the ruins be restored. But Lifta as a sanctuary and de facto heritage site will be lost.
Hundreds of Palestinians cross reopened Gaza-Egypt border
Post-revolution move is hailed as 'first step towards breaking the siege', but Israel voices concerns
Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 28 May 2011 21.54 BST
Egypt has opened its border with Gaza, letting Palestinians leave the blockaded territory, in a move seen as indicating a more supportive policy since February's revolution.
Hundreds of people laden with luggage gathered at the Rafah crossing in the south of Gaza before the border opened at 9am. Around 300 crossed in the first hours and officials said they expected up to 1,000 to leave Gaza by the end of the day. Women, children and men over the age of 40 will be permitted free travel from Gaza to Egypt, but men under 40 will be required to apply for and be granted a visa. A large proportion of Gaza's 1.5 million population is aged between 18 and 40.
The crossing will open for eight hours a day, six days a week. In the four years since Hamas took control of Gaza, 18 months after winning elections, and Israel imposed a stringent blockade, the Rafah border has opened intermittently and only students, businessmen and people needing medical treatment have been allowed through.
All other border crossings are with Israel, which has tightly controlled the movement of people and goods. Despite easing the blockade almost a year ago, Israel continues to proscribe certain goods, such as construction materials, from entering Gaza and blocks nearly all exports. Rafah will not be open to commercial traffic.
Arab League seeks UN recognition of Palestine
Statement comes as Qatar proposes that the Middle East peace process be suspended until Israel is "ready" for talks.
Last Modified: 28 May 2011 21:34
he Arab League has said it backs seeking UN recognition for a Palestinian state, as Qatar proposed at a meeting that the Middle East peace process be suspended until Israel was "ready" for talks.
At a meeting of an Arab monitoring committee chaired by Qatar, the Arab League said in a statement it "supports the appeal to the UN asking that Palestine, within the 1967 borders, becomes a full-fledged state" of the international organisation.
The Arab League's statement on Saturday came soon after Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, reiterated his determination to seek the recognition at the world diplomatic body unless Israel begins negotiations on "substantial basis".
Peace process 'suspended'
Qatar proposed at the meeting that the Middle East peace process should not be resumed until Israel was "ready," Al Jazeera has reported.
"We will suspend for the moment the peace process until there is a willing partner" in negotiations from the Israeli side, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, the Qatari prime minister, said as he opened the Arab monitoring committee meeting.
The meeting was examining the latest developments concerning the Palestinian issue following a proposal from Barack Obama, the US president, to resolve the long-standing dispute.
In a keynote policy speech on May 19, Obama issued a clear call for Israel and the Palestinians to use the borders existing before the 1967 Six Day War as the basis for talks to achieve a negotiated solution to the conflict.
Such a state would include the Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank and mostly Arab but Israel-annexed east Jerusalem, with some adjustments and land swaps so that Israel can maintain settlement blocs.
Obama also hoped that progress on border security would then allow to move towards a solution on "the future of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees".
Egypt opens Rafah border with Gaza
Palestinians welcome easing of four-year blockade on coastal enclave - a move ushered in by Egypt's new leaders.
Last Modified: 28 May 2011 14:26
Palestinians killed in 'Nakba' clashes
Several killed and scores wounded in Gaza, Golan Heights, Ras Maroun and West Bank, as Palestinians mark Nakba Day.
Last Modified: 15 May 2011 20:03
Several people have been killed and scores others wounded in the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, Ras Maroun in Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as Palestinians mark the "Nakba", or day of "catastrophe".
The Nakba is how Palestinians refer to the 1948 founding of the state of Israel, when an estimated 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled following Israel's declaration of statehood.
At least one Palestinian was killed and up to 80 others wounded in northern Gaza as Israeli troops opened fire on a march of at least 1,000 people heading towards the Erez crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
A group of Palestinians, including children, marching to mark the Nakba were shot by the Israeli army after crossing a Hamas checkpoint and entering what Israel calls a "buffer zone" - an empty area between checkpoints where Israeli soldiers generally shoot trespassers, Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston reported from Gaza City on Sunday.
"We are just hearing that one person has been killed and about 80 people have been injured," Johnston said.
"There are about 500 to 600 Palestinian youth gathered at the Erez border crossing. They don't usually march as far as the border. There has been intermittent gunfire from the Israeli side for the last couple of hours.
"Hamas has asked us to leave; they are trying to move people away from the Israeli border. They say seeing so many people at the border indicates a shift in politics in the area."
West Bank clashes
One of the biggest Nakba demonstrations was held near Qalandiya refugee camp and checkpoint, the main secured entry point into the West Bank from Israel, where about 100 protesters marched, Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh reported from Ramallah.
Some injuries were reported from tear gas canisters fired at protesters there, El-Shamayleh said.
Small clashes were reported throughout various neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and cities in the West Bank, between stone-throwing Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
Israeli police said 20 arrests were made in the East Jerusalem area of Issawiyah for throwing stones and petrol bombs at Israeli border police officers.
About 70 arrests have been made in East Jerusalem throughout the Nakba protests that began on Friday, police spokesman Rosenfeld said.
Meanwhile, Syrian state television reported that Israeli forces killed four Syrian citizens who had been taking part in an anti-Israeli rally on the Syrian side of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights border on Sunday.
Israeli army radio said earlier that dozens were wounded when Palestinian refugees from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border were shot for trying to break through the frontier fence. There was no comment on reports of the injured.
There have also been reports that Israeli gunfire killed up to 10 people and injured scores more in the Lebanese town of Ras Maroun, on the country's southern border with Israel.
Matthew Cassel, a journalist in the town, told Al Jazeera that he saw at least two dead Palestinian refugees.
"Tens of thousands of refugees marched to the border fence, to demand their right to return, where they were met by Israeli soldiers," he said.
"Many were killed. I don't know how many but I saw with my own eyes a number of unconscious and injured, and at least two dead.
"Now the Lebanese army has moved in and people are running back up the mountain to get away from the army."
Separately in south Tel Aviv, one Israeli man was killed and 17 were injured when a 22-year-old Arab Israeli driver drove his truck into a number of vehicles on one of the city's main roads.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the driver, from an Arab village called Kfar Qasim in the West Bank, was arrested at the scene and is being questioned.
"Based on the destruction and the damage at the scene, we have reason to believe that it was carried out deliberately," Rosenfeld said. But he said he did not believe the motive was directly linked to the anniversary of the Nakba.
'End to Zionist project'
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the events of "Nakba Day" in a televised statement on Sunday, particularly referring to attempts to infiltrate Israel's borders with Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, saying "we are determined to defend our borders".
Netanyahu said that he instructed Israeli forces to act with restraint, but to stop all attempts at infiltration and challenges to Israel's sovereignty.
He said that the "Nakba Day" protesters were not fighting for the 1967 borders as they claimed, but were denying Israel's right to exist.
"We must understand who and what we are up against," Netanyahu said.
Earlier on Sunday, Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of Hamas-controlled Gaza, repeated the group's call for the end of the state of Israel.
Addressing Muslim worshippers in Gaza City on Sunday, Haniyeh said Palestinians marked the Nakba "with great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine".
"To achieve our goals in the liberation of our occupied land, we should have one leadership,'' Haniyeh
said, praising the recent unity deal with its rival, Fatah, the political organisation which controls the West Bank under Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas' leadership.
Meanwhile, a 63 second-long siren rang midday in commemoration of the Nakba's 63rd anniversary.
Over 760,000 Palestinians - estimated today to number 4.7 million with their descendants - fled or were driven out of their homes in the conflict that followed Israel's creation.
Many took refuge in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere. Some continue to live in refugee camps.
About 160,000 Palestinians stayed behind in what is now Israeli territory and are known as Arab Israelis. They now total around 1.3 million, or some 20 percent of Israel's population.
Uncertainty stalks Palestinian village
Lifta faces uncertain future despite Israeli court's ruling against land sale.
Last Modified: 11 May 2011 15:43
In the outskirts of Jerusalem, the village of Lifta is the last deserted Palestinian village still standing in modern day Israel.
On Wednesday, the Jerusalem District Court said the lands of Lifta should not be offered for sale to real estate developers, but Israel's land authority could act otherwise.
Israel is concerned that allowing Palestinians to return would set a precedent for other refugees to return to their ancestral homes inside Israel.
And that – the Israeli government believes - would undermine it as a Jewish state.
Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports from Lifta.
Hollow 'reconciliation' in Palestine
Hamas and Fatah's agreement will only maintain the status quo of division, called 'unity' only for public consumption.
Ali Abunimah Last Modified: 09 May 2011 08:58
By deciding to join the US-backed Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas risks turning its back on its role as a resistance movement, without gaining any additional leverage that could help Palestinians free themselves from Israeli occupation and colonial rule.
Indeed, knowingly or not, Hamas may be embarking down the same well-trodden path as Abbas' Fatah faction: committing itself to joining a US-controlled "peace process", over which Palestinians have no say - and have no prospect of emerging with their rights intact. In exchange, Hamas may hope to earn a role alongside Abbas in ruling over the fraction of the Palestinians living under permanent Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Whether Hamas realises it or not, it has effectively entered into a coalition with Israel and Abbas to manage the Occupied Territories, in which Hamas will have much responsibility, but little power.
Hamas bows to pressure
Many Palestinians celebrated the hugs and handshakes between Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and Mahmoud Abbas as they signed the reconciliation paper in Cairo on May 4. But few took the time to examine what was at stake. The deal reportedly included several key provisions: formation of a "national unity government" with a prime minister chosen by consensus; preparation for Palestinian Authority elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a year; combining the security forces controlled by the separate factions; and reactivating the Palestinian Legislative Council - in which Hamas won an overwhelming majority in 2006. Notably, there was no commitment to real reform and democratisation of the defunct PLO to re-enfranchise the majority of Palestinians, who do not live in the Occupied Territories.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on May 7, Meshaal said Hamas would now make all key decisions in consensus with other factions, particularly Abbas' Fatah: "How to manage the resistance, what's the best way to achieve our goals, when to escalate and when to cease fire, now we have to agree on all those decisions as Palestinians." Other areas that Meshaal said would be decided by consensus include "negotiations with Israel, domestic governance, foreign affairs, domestic security and resistance and other field activities".
The problem is that, on the most fundamental issues behind the intra-Palestinian split, there is no evidence of any "consensus". Rather, Hamas has bowed to pressure. For many years, Hamas correctly objected to the Abbas-controlled PA's open collaboration with Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank and, until June 2007, in Gaza. This collaboration has targeted not just Hamas members, but activists and organisations which resist Israeli occupation with nonviolent means.
The Palestine Papers, revealed by Al Jazeera in January, document how deeply this collaboration went, including PA officials urging Israel to tighten the siege of Gaza, efforts by the PA to block Israeli releases of Palestinian prisoners, and secret committees to undermine the previous Palestinian national unity government established in 2007. Top PA official Saeb Erekat notoriously boasted to a US counterpart that "we even killed our own people" in the course of such "security" work for Israel.
Had Abbas apologised for, renounced and foresworn such activities as part of the reconciliation, then it might be understandable that Hamas would sign the deal. But nothing was mentioned about ending PA-Israeli collaboration - and there is every sign that the PA will continue with it. Indeed it has no option but to do so or risk losing the US and European financial support that props it up.
No change on the ground
Following the unity deal, senior Israeli commanders in the occupied West Bank saw no change in their close relationship with their PA counterparts, Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer reported. "None of the Palestinian local representatives or security officers I have spoken to over the past week have said that it changes anything for them," one Israeli officer said.
"Naturally, we are keeping our eyes open for any change in security co-ordination," an Israeli army regional brigade commander told Pfeffer. "But as far as I can tell, it is business as usual for the Palestinian Authority's security forces. Their priority up to now has been to prevent Hamas from gaining a toe-hold in the West Bank, and they have made it clear to us that nothing for them has changed."
This was confirmed by Abbas himself, who told pro-Israel lobbyists visiting from the US on May 8, according to The New York Times: "I hear rumours that Hamas will be in the West Bank, or that it will share authority here. This will not happen." Abbas was urging the Israel lobbyists to help convince the US Congress not to cut off the financial aid on which Abbas depends.
What this means, in effect, is that Hamas has agreed to join a Palestinian Authority which is actively engaged in a war against Hamas in conjunction with Israel - and that both Hamas and Fatah have decided to maintain division as a policy, but to rename it "unity", merely for public consumption.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's calls for Abbas to annul the deal with Hamas should be understood as evidence of how much value Israel puts in its relationship with the PA - and Israel does not want to see that relationship jeopardised. Yet while Israel may protest, it has no short-term alternative but to continue to rely on the PA to carry out the day-to-day work of enforcing the occupation.
Israel could not easily bear the financial, political and social costs of returning to a military occupation unmediated by a collaborating Palestinian proxy force. So for now, it looks like Abbas, Netanyahu and Hamas will enter into an uneasy de facto coalition which will last as long as Hamas sticks to a ceasefire and Israel chooses not to break it. In all likelihood, Israel will try to break up the coalition by launching military attacks and provocations in Gaza in an attempt to get the military wing of Hamas and other Palestinian factions to retaliate.
Hamas has long signalled its desire to move away from armed struggle toward purely political means - this is the essence of its proposed hudna, or long-term truce, with Israel. It is of course possible to defend the legitimate and universal right to armed resistance against occupation, while choosing not to exercise it. "Where there is occupation and settlement, there is a right to resistance. Israel is the aggressor," Meshaal told The New York Times on May 5, "But resistance is a means, not an end."
Yet to choose different means, a movement has to have a viable political strategy and a clear definition of its ends. Hamas has failed to articulate, or to rally the Palestinian people around either. Instead its strategy appears to be simply to sign on to the inherently unjust, and infeasible "two-state solution" - and hope for admission to "the peace process".
Meshaal told The New York Times of working toward a "common national agenda" for Palestinians which the Hamas leader defined as "a Palestinian state in the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital, without any settlements or settlers, not an inch of land swaps and respecting the right of return" of Palestinian refugees to their homes in what is now Israel.
Anyone who has not been asleep for the past few years would have to recognise that this is not a "common national agenda". Meshaal's new partner, Abbas, for one, does not agree to it. Again, The Palestine Papers show conclusively that Abbas and his men offered Israel much less than this minimal programme, conceding almost all of Israel's settlements in and around Jerusalem, and the right of return.
It is difficult to work out what Hamas leaders' calculations are: do they really have no better ideas? Are they afraid that Abbas' push to have a Palestinian state recognised at the UN in September will gain steam and they will miss out? Do they recognise that the "peace process" will deliver nothing, but hope to avoid blame and inherit the leadership of the Palestinian national movement from Fatah?
There is also much speculation that the regional context - especially the uprising in Syria and ongoing instability in Iran - has Hamas leaders worried enough about their position that they rushed to embrace and re-legitimise Abbas. It is important to recall that while Hamas has taken support from Iran, it always did so reluctantly, and as a last resort after its earlier openings to Europe and the United States were spurned - and after Saudi Arabia cut off its traditional support to the movement under Bush administration pressure.
Saudi Arabia had tried previously to defy this US diktat by brokering the 2007 Mecca Agreement which ushered in the short-lived "national unity government" which, as is now well-known, the Bush administration actively schemed to overthrow along with elements of Fatah. Could we now be seeing Hamas trying to move out of Iran's orbit and back toward the Saudi axis?
Undoubtedly Hamas, like other regional actors, is in a bind, and may think it is smart enough to avoid the pitfalls of accepting the ever-shrinking two-state paradigm and entering into the "peace process". But it could get trapped just like Fatah, especially since it seems to have few other cards.
What the Hamas-Fatah "reconciliation" deal painfully demonstrates, contrary to the hopes of most Palestinians, is that neither Fatah nor Hamas has any idea how to get Palestinians out of their impasse. Both seem concerned merely with sharing the spoils of the Palestinian Authority and managing between them the wreckage of the failed Oslo accords.
Whatever Hamas and Fatah leaders do, the worst mistake the rest of the Palestinians could make is to leave the fate of their national movement in such hands.
A real Palestinian unity platform
If Hamas and Fatah have lost sight of what a real, effective and viable platform for national unity and struggle might look like, that does not mean such a platform does not exist. It does in the form of the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).
Endorsed by hundreds of Palestinian organisations, the BDS call does not concern itself with "solutions", but with rights for all Palestinians everywhere.
Its three demands are an end to Israel's occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands controlled by Israel since 1967; full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and full respect for the rights of refugees - including the right of return.
Moreover, this inclusive programme provides a means of struggle: building international solidarity campaigns to support Palestinians on the ground, by isolating Israel the way apartheid South Africa was isolated in the 1980s, until Israel respects Palestinian rights. Those who dismiss this campaign should note that Israeli leaders call BDS an "existential threat" because they understand its growing power.
The BDS call truly unites all Palestinians by addressing all of their rights. Instead of waiting for factional leaders to hatch their own programmes behind close doors and force them on the rest of us, we should invite them to endorse the BDS call and work toward implementing it. And if they don't, we should carry on without them.
Ali Abunimah is author of One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse and is a contributor to The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict. He is a co-founder of the online publication Electronic Intifada and a policy adviser with Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network.