Is the ‘Arab Spring’ Not Allowed in Palestine?
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH
May 02, 2011

Palestinians everywhere are looking forward to the signing of a reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fateh, the two rival Palestinian factions at odds for the last four years. After much delay, finger pointing and bloodshed, the parties have finally committed to letting bygones be bygones and hopefully join hands to fight the good fight against Israel’s occupation and strive for a united and independent Palestinian state.

The reconciliation agreement is, by all standards, a big deal. So big in fact, it has even compelled Israel and the United States to put in their two cents of commentary. Too bad the commentary [and advice] from these bosom buddies is unwarranted and indeed, unwelcomed.

First came Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who didn’t hesitate to pose an ultimatum to President Mahmoud Abbas at the first whiff of Palestinian unity. He [Abbas] must choose between “peace with Israel” as he put it, “or peace with Hamas.” While difficult to hold back the cynical guffaw such a statement must evoke in any semi-intelligent person, it is important to also note the glaring oxymoron it embodies. Netanyahu, the supporter of settlements, the proponent of “targeted killings” [aka assassinations] and the gobbler of Palestinian land is talking about “peace with Israel.”

Perhaps the statement would have been a smidgen more credible had Netanyahu given an ounce of effort to forging a deal with the Palestinians throughout his years in office. On the contrary, the Israeli premier has done everything in his power to foil any deal or even any real negotiations with the Palestinian leadership. Hence, “peace with Israel” is no choice at all.

Unfortunately, the United States, which really has no business butting in, did not stray far from Israel’s position.

"The United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace. Hamas, however, is a terrorist organization which targets civilians," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said on April 27.

"To play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles and renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist," he said. Certain members of congress have even called for US funding to the PA to be cut. “US taxpayer funds should not and must not be used to support those who threaten US security, our interests and our vital ally, Israel,” maintained Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairperson of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It should be noted that Hamas has never targeted “US security or interests”. Conditional democracy really should become a new dictionary entry.

Even more unfortunately, the threats have gone beyond the verbal. Israel has also “delayed” the transfer of Palestinian revenues, which it collects before handing over to the PA, which in turn, uses the cash to pay civil servant salaries. The rationale behind Israel’s arrogant decision to withhold money that is rightfully Palestinian is that it must first ensure the money will not go to funding Hamas. Netanyahu has even gone as far as making such preposterous statements such as, “Israel would not recognize any government in the world that included members from Al-Qaida.”

Since when has any Palestinian government included member of Al Qaeda? Never. This is Netanyahu’s way of injecting the fear factor in anything having to do with Palestinian unity.

The problem, other than Israel’s meddling, is the United States’ double standards, glaringly clear yet again when it comes to Palestine. The revolutions in the Arab world, which have now come to be known as the Arab Spring, have been lauded by the US as the democratic voice of the people. For the Palestinians, apparently, this is not an option. The Americans, the Israelis and even Europeans all say they support the choice of the people, but when the Palestinians choose, their options are rife with conditions.

It will be hard to resist the pressure. The two sides have not even signed a formal deal and Israel is pulling out all the stops. But the Palestinians, for whatever reason, have gotten it right this time. “It is not Israel’s concern,” quipped presidential advisor Nabil Abu Rdeineh, a day after the initial agreement in Cairo last week. “This is an internal affair and Israel had nothing to do with it, nor is it a party to it.”

That pretty much sums it up. Neither Israel nor the United States have any business in internal Palestinian affairs. Besides, if you are a proponent of democracy, you better go all the way. Otherwise you just come out looking like a hypocrite.

Joharah Baker is Director of the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at