05/03/2011, 00.00
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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Fear of the Arab spring is behind Hamas-Fatah deal, custodian of the Holy Land says

Palestinian factions sign reconciliation pact to form joint government ahead of presidential and legislative elections. For Fr Pizzaballa, it is necessary to deal with the problems of the people and the territories rather than political affiliations.
Bethlehem (AsiaNews) – “Hostilities between Fatah and Hamas won’t disappear at once. We have seen hundreds of such deals come and go,” said Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custodian of the Holy Land, who spoke to AsiaNews about the agreement signed by Hamas and Fatah representatives today in Cairo.

The deal calls for a caretaker government to prepare presidential and parliamentary elections to be held concurrently within a year. Both factions, thanks to Egyptian mediation, appear now ready to bury the hatchet after years of unsuccessful negotiations.

The stalemate had pushed many Palestinians to criticise openly their leaders, raising the possibility that demonstrations like those in Tunis or Cairo could occur in Gaza and the West Bank.

“Things in the Arab world have changed more radically in the past five months than in many years, “ Fr Pizzaballa said. “Earlier predictions have gone out of the window.”

“People are tired of the [Fatah-Hamas] split. They want real change; above and beyond the two factions. They want the real problems of the territories and its people addressed,” the Franciscan friar said. In fact, “problems, like how to make ends meet before the end of the month, are not specific to this or that party.

“Changes in the Arab world are certainly one of the factors” that led to the agreement. Likewise, with Israeli-Palestinian talks at a standstill, Palestinians have to “work on internal issues.”

“Palestinian reunification is fundamental from all points of view,” Fr Pizzaballa said. However, we have to wait and understand its actual content because “it is important to show the stability of such a pact”.

Israel, for its part, has already criticised the deal, warning Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas that he will have to choose between Israel and Hamas.

A ceremony to mark the signing is scheduled for tomorrow. It will also be attended by Arab League head Amr Mussa and Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi. (GM)

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