Daniella Cheslow Multimedia Journalist

Daniella Cheslow
TV watching marks end of Hamas-Fatah feud

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip saw each other’s official television broadcasts yesterday for the first time in four years, a day after Fatah and Hamas resolved their bloody feud.Published by The Times of London. 

The two Palestinian territories split in 2007 when the militant Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority banned Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV in the West Bank, while Hamas barred the official Palestine TV from Gaza.

Palestine TV appeared on the screens in Gaza at 8am yesterday. Al-Aqsa TV went on air in the West Bank an hour later.

“From today we are allowing Palestinian television to broadcast live from Gaza to improve the atmosphere,” said Hassan Abu Hashish, head of the Hamas-run government press office in Gaza.

But the TV link will not bridge some of the deeper chasms that still separate the populations of the two Palestinian enclaves. Hamas and Fatah must unite their security forces, release each other’s prisoners, and pick ministers for the interim government that will rule across the Palestinian territories until a general election is held within a year.

In addition to these technical challenges, the two movements must overcome ideological differences and shake off the legacy of the past four years of enmity.

Hours before the Cairo ceremony, Hamas executed a convicted collaborator in Gaza, according to the Hamas Interior Ministry.

Palestinian law requires Hamas to get approval of the Palestinian President for execution orders, but Hamas does not recognise the authority of President Abbas, whose term expired in 2009.

“The Palestinian Authority refuses this killing and condemns it,” spokesman Ghassan Khatib told The Times.

The day before the reconciliation deal was signed, Hamas’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniya mourned the death of Osama bin Laden, even as Fatah leaders cheered the al-Qaeda leader’s assassination.

Khaled Meshaal, chairman of Hamas’s political bureau, sounded a discordant note in Cairo when he declared: “Our real battle is with the Israeli occupiers.”

Yet Hamas has tempered its call for the wholesale destruction of Israel. In Cairo, Mr Meshaal agreed in principle to a Palestinian state within the territories Israel captured in 1967 – the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

“There is a big change in Hamas policy,” said Gaza analyst Emad Falluji, a former Hamas activist. “In the past, no one could speak of the 1967 borders.”

Mr Falluji credited the Arab Spring in neighbouring countries with helping to bring about the reconciliation, singling out Egypt, where former President Mubarak has been replaced by a more Hamas-friendly regime. Still, Hamas has no great love for the Jewish state.

“It’s not that Hamas agrees to having an official relationship with Israel,” Mr Falluji said.

This remains one of the main differences of philosophy between Fatah and Hamas. Mr Abbas reiterated yesterday that he was prepared to continue peace negotiations if Israel stopped expanding settlements.

Photo by Hamas/AFP/Getty, published at thetimes.co.uk.