Set difference aside
Within months, Israel will have pulled out of Gaza and some West Bank settlements and the Palestinians will have new legislative and municipal councils, all things being equal. There cannot be a better time -- a more urgent time -- for Palestinians to come together and pave the way towards their future.
Fatah, the largest and oldest Palestinian faction, has called for a government of national unity, offering opportunity to all Palestinians to sit together and work things out. National consensus is sorely needed, for only backed by consensus will Palestinian negotiators be able to hold their ground on the hostile terrain of future talks with Israel. And no faction can pretend that talks will not, one day, be necessary.
Some Palestinian groups are dismayed over the indefinite postponement of parliamentary elections. They have reason; their aspect is rising. Hence they reject the call for a government of national unity. Last Friday, both Hamas and Jihad sounded sympathetic. This week was a different story.
The future of the Palestinian people transcends all divisions, as Palestinians themselves well know. Fatah -- it is clear to most -- is a party with internal problems. It lacks a depth of legitimacy on the ground and is the powerhouse behind the lacklustre Palestinian Authority (PA). As eager as Palestinians are for peace, they will not accept it at any price. The PA, and hence Fatah, is caught between the demands of its own people, its desire to retain power, and the humiliations often heaped upon it by a derisive state of Israel. It is reaching out for help, but this help was refused.
There may be political stakes involved, but it is beholden upon Hamas, and all other factions, not to sacrifice the ruling elite, in spite of their failings, at the cost of the Palestinian cause. The dynamics soon to be unleashed in Gaza and leading up to elections in the West Bank are bigger than Hamas alone. Hamas may be strong and getting stronger, but it should not ignore the likes of Sharon, who would only be too happy to see the Palestinians fall divided.