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Palestinian New Coalition's Future Vague as Embargo Continues
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The future of a newly formed Palestinian national unity government is still vague as the siege on the Palestinian people shows no sign of being lifted, political analysts said on Thursday.

The Palestinians are divided towards the new coalition which groups major rival movements of Hamas and Fatah as well as other factions in a bid to end a one-year international embargo and internal chaos in the Palestinian territories.

Some believe that the government is the utmost effort of political powers and the world must accept it, while others see that as long as international embargo and internal security chaos continue, it will not last for long.

Ashraf al-Ajrami, a Palestinian political analyst from Gaza said that the future of the government is subject to its ability to control the situation in the Palestinian territories.

The success of the government "is also strongly linked to its ability to lift the Western political and economic siege," he added.

Hamas, defeating long-dominant Fatah movement in legislative elections last January, single-handedly formed a government in March 2006.

But the government was boycotted politically by the Middle East Quartet committee that groups the United States, the EU, the UN and Russia, as well as Israel due to its rejection to meet three demands, namely recognizing Israel, respecting previous peace agreements and renouncing violence.

In addition, the Quartet cut off monthly financial aids to the government and Israel largely withheld tax and fees revenues it collected on behalf of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), crippling the economy of the Hamas-led government which was unable to fully pay salaries of some 160,000 civil and security employees.

Hani Habib, another political analyst from Gaza, said the new government, which enjoys Arab support and backup, is distinguished as the first one to be formed according to a national understanding.

According to a power-sharing agreement between Fatah and Hamas reached in a Saudi-brokered meeting in Riyadh on Feb. 8, the first ever coalition government came to power on March 17, ending months of infighting in the Palestinian streets.

The new government has collected a lot of support from Arab countries but many countries are still reluctant to deal with it, citing that its platform falls short of explicitly recognizing Israel and renouncing violence.

Habib said although the Arab League decided to act rapidly to promote and revive a 2002 Arab peace initiative in last week's Riyadh summit, "it has not taken any real procedure to support the PNA in front of the Quartet in order to break up the siege."

In addition to these challenges, a status of security chaos and lawlessness has dominated the Palestinian territories, mainly in the Gaza Strip.

"Ending embargo and security chaos are two equal tracks, in other words, the government can't succeed if it overcomes the siege but fails to tackle internal issues," said al-Ajrami.

But he added that "it is not easy to judge the performance of the government in such a short period. We need time to say if the government failed or succeeded."

The Palestinians, mainly employees who still suffer a severe financial crisis due to not being paid regularly, expressed concerns that the new government may not last long if the embargo is kept imposed on it.

Ahmed Abu Dalal, a Palestinian government employee, said that "if the international embargo continues and security chaos keeps deteriorating, this government would face the same troubles the previous Hamas-led government had faced and it would collapse within a few months."

Hani Habib observed that "it was unexpected that this government will overcome all troubles and obstacles in days. It has inherited hard problems that no one has ever been able to end them quickly."

(Xinhua News Agency April 9, 2007)

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