By Motasem Dalloul – Gaza
Marking the fourth anniversary of iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death, many Palestinians blame rivals Fatah and Hamas for an ever-increasing divide and hijacking unity hopes.
"For the failure of the dialogue, I blame both Hamas and Fatah," Mahmoud Joneed, an unemployed worker from Gaza, told IslamOnline.net.
President Mahmud Abbas used a speech marking the anniversary to launched a bitter attack on rival Hamas, accusing it of sabotaging the much-awaited reconciliation talks that were to begin in Cairo on Monday, November 10.
"They missed this opportunity and I am talking of the Hamas leadership here."
Egypt cancelled the reconciliation talks after a number of factions, including Hamas, decided to boycott it.
Hamas attributed its decision to Fatah’s refusal to free Hamas members detained in the West Bank although Hamas did the same with Fatah loyalists in the Gaza Strip.
"Both sides are blamed," insists Mohammed Nabeel, a shopkeeper.
"Both sides are liars and people don’t trust them," he fumed.
"Both should have offered bitter concessions to guarantee a fruitful dialogue. But this did not happen."
The two groups have been divided since Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007 after a week of bloody street battles with security forces loyal to Fatah.
The Cairo talks were to discuss an Egyptian plan to heal simmering divisions and agree on the formation of a new unity government to end the long-running Israeli siege on Gaza.
They were also to tackle restructuring the security agencies and reforming the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Regardless of who to blame, many Palestinians still hope the feuding factions would soon bury their hatches and stand together for Palestinian rights.
"We can’t bear this division for a longer time. It is already making our life unbearable," Abed Ibrahim, 45, told IOL.
He believes the unity dream is not impossible, but just needs significant compromise on both sides.
"Both Hamas and Fatah must do more steps to indicate good intention towards the dialogue," said the Gaza builder.
Joneed, the 28-year-old unemployed worker, agrees.
"They have to know that the concessions for each other aren’t something shameful, but it increase their popularity."
Reyad al-Haddad, a 57-year-old electric technician, says snap legislative and presidential elections should be the judge.
"The solution is to conduct presidential elections and let the people decide who they want to rule.
"All parties must be committed to it, whichever the one people will choose."
(Originally published in IslamOnline.net, November 11, 2008)