A. Formation of the Government:
Both Fatah and Hamas agree to form a Palestinian government and to appoint the Prime Minister and Ministers in consensus between them.
In other words, the days of the Palestinian grand coalition are back. Neither faction has clarified who will fill what roles in the Cabinet, though Fatah’s current occupation of the Presidency will make Hamas eager to take the Prime Minister’s spot from Salam Fayyad. The seriousness of this cannot be understated. Fayyad is very popular with the Israelis and with Western donors, who have flooded the West Bank with great sums during his tenure and launched a number of capacity-building initiatives that have made statehood a true possibility. For instance, there has been a US-sponsored effort to establish a fully independent and final court system in Palestine, so that Palestinians would not have to rely on the Israelis to provide an appellate system.
Fayyad’s popularity means that his removal will be greeted with displeasure by his non-Palestinian supporters, regardless of who replaces him. That his most logical replacement is Hamas’ ex-PM Ismail Haniyeh makes the situation much worse. Haniyeh seems to be playing the role of demagogue in the reconciliation process. Within a day of the deal being announced, he called on Fatah to end its recognition of Israel. Within hours of the death of Osama bin Laden, he had issued a statement condemning the killing and calling bin Laden a “Muslim warrior.” Any Hamas participation in government is going to be tough for Western donors to tolerate–they refused to do so during the last unity government. Haniyeh’s strident rhetoric could make continued full support for the PA a political impossibility for nations like the US. One must wonder if Haniyeh was an opponent of the deal with Fatah and is now attempting to sabotage it–perhaps even because the deal did not include him returning as Prime Minister.
This is an illustration of the two steps forward, one step back reconciliation. Unified Palestinian governance, and a unified Palestinian state, are once again a possibility. However, Fatah has truly made a deal with the devil–not only do they hate Hamas, but the reconstituted Palestinian government now contains an element widely considered a terrorist group. We can say with only slight hyperbole that September will see Palestine arrive on the world stage as a state, but a pariah state.
Upshot: If the Hamas-Fatah unity deal leads to the fall of Salam Fayyad, especially in favor of a Hamas PM, there is a serious risk that Fayyad’s significant diplomatic progress will be rapidly undone.
Prediction: The deal likely included Fayyad remaining PM, though that could have required serious concessions elsewhere in the cabinet. If Hamas is returning to the PM post, Fatah will find a way to keep Fayyad in a senior role; Hamas blocking even this will be an indicator that they want neither peace nor progress.