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Palestinian unity govt presents uneasy alliance

It has been only days since Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas formed a unity government, and already the mood on the Palestinian streets has soured.

WEST BANK: It has been only days since Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas formed a unity government, and already the mood on the Palestinian streets has soured.

Gazans on the coastal strip that spent seven years under the Islamist rule of Hamas are talking about splitting again.

The new Palestinian unity government was sworn in to much fanfare and after months of negotiations.

It brought to an end Hamas' rule over the Gaza Strip and Palestinian rival faction Fatah's control over most of the West Bank.

Dimitri Diliani, from Fatah Revolutionary Council, said: “The issue of reconciliation was on Fatah’s agenda since the military coup that Hamas conducted in Gaza.”

Munier Zughiar, whose two sons are imprisoned in Israel, has felt the divide more than others.

While he does not support any political group, his two sons are Hamas militants, and both are now sitting in an Israeli jail on terror-related charges.

Munier works with Palestinian prisoners and has seen first-hand how families have been torn apart by different loyalties.

“In Ramallah, it was a little bit difficult and also in Gaza, it was difficult, because as a human being, you can’t imagine or see that two brothers in one family, one of them is (with) Fatah and the other is (with) Hamas,” he said.

But for all the promise the unity government holds, it still needs to work out how to incorporate Gaza's legal system with that of the West Bank.

Salaries for over 40,000 Hamas government employees are late, and fingers are already being pointed at the Fatah-Hamas government.

Many, though, still want to give it a chance.

While most Palestinians are excited about the new partnership, it is an uneasy alliance.

Gaza is broke, and Hamas has become weak in recent years.

Palestinian president Abbas also needs the political victory after the latest rounds of peace talks with Israel failed.

But for all the political points he scored at home, Abbas has alienated Tel Aviv.

Across the border, the Israeli government rejects the unity government outright. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is calling on world leaders to do the same.

Hamas supports the destruction of the Jewish state.

Although Abbas said the new government will abide by previous agreements it holds with Israel, most Israelis fear it will be a delicate balancing act that is bound to fail.

Shlomo Brom, a political analyst, said: “One of the common arguments in Israel is that we can’t come to an agreement with the Palestinians, because the Palestinians are so divided.

“Then we Israelis should support any step that unites the two areas.”

For now, the West appears to support the alliance.

A top United Nations envoy has already visited the Gaza Strip assuring them of support.

But in the end it is the Palestinian people who will decide.

Their vote in six months' time will be the ultimate judge of whether the new unity government has failed them or not. 

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