6 May 2011
Christian Aid partners in Gaza hope that the unity accord signed this week will be a step towards alleviating the dire humanitarian situation there and want to see one authority representing a unified West Bank and Gaza.
Not least, all our partners want an end to the Israeli imposed blockade of Gaza, soon entering its fifth year.
On Wednesday 4 May, Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah hopefully ended nearly four years of internal political division by signing a reconciliation agreement which promises to bring them together in a transitional unity government.
The long awaited agreement, which many Palestinians hope will create a representative Palestinian authority, was met with both jubilation and caution throughout the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
The factional divide has served to exacerbate an already critical situation for most Palestinians, in particular for those in Gaza.
The unity agreement is only a first step of many towards securing an end to the current situation. It will be a long path which must be supported.
‘We all have mixed feelings. We’re not sure whether we should rejoice, wait and see how this will really materialise, or ignore it because inevitably it will fail without support from the international community. The last time we were unified, we were punished by having our international financial assistance cut off,’ says Mira Rizek, director of our partner the YWCA-East Jerusalem.
Following Palestinian elections in 2006, many members of the international community did not recognise the Hamas majority government that resulted following free and fair elections. It precipitated an international boycott of the Palestinian Authority, causing a financial crisis and spiralling the West Bank and Gaza into unprecedented levels of poverty.
In 2007, a Palestinian National Unity Government was established to address international concerns, but was short-lived due to the lack of international recognition. This led to the internal split between Fatah and Hamas which has impacted the lives of every Palestinian living in the oPt.
Last year Israel announced that it would ease its blockade, a form of collective punishment illegal in international law, but very little impact of this has been felt in Gaza.
While recent announcements that Egypt may open the Rafah Crossing and thus improve access for Palestinians to the outside world, the primary responsibility to ensure movement and access in and across the occupied territory is with Israel. Dialogue to secure this is best served by a unified and representative Palestinian leadership.