Organizations in the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy send out action alerts monthly, focusing on different issues so that members of Congress hear consistently that their constituents support a just and lasting resolution to the Palestinian and Israeli conflict.
Last week the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas authorities in Gaza signed a reconciliation deal to end the decade of division between the two groups. The text of the agreement has not been released, but the goal of the deal, as stated by both sides, is to reunite the West Bank and Gaza under the control of the Palestinian Authority while reconciling the divisions between the political factions.
The new agreement is an important first step towards change in Gaza and a necessary move before larger issues between Palestinians and Israelis can be addressed.
However, this is not the first time that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have agreed to reconcile, and the agreement is fragile.
Take action: Ask Congress to support the agreement and support Palestinian unity.
This agreement comes at a time of dire crisis. Electricity is only available in Gaza for one to three hours per day. Hospitals function on generators. Students study in darkened classrooms. Families live without the ability to use modern technology. The water and sanitation systems in Gaza have collapsed. Up to 95 million liters of raw sewage flows from Gaza into the Mediterranean Sea every day and 96 percent of Gaza’s water supply is not fit for human consumption. The unemployment rate in Gaza is over 44 percent. In 2012 the United Nations predicted that by 2020 Gaza would uninhabitable, but with rapid declines in living conditions over the last several years, some UN officials warn that Gaza may be unlivable even sooner.
The blockade of Gaza has led to this current crisis, and the blockade must be lifted regardless of what happens between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. The security concerns of Israel and border issues with Egypt can be addressed through monitored crossings that allow the people of Gaza to move freely, humanitarian aid to reach Gaza, and commerce to resume.
Contact your members of Congress to tell them you support U.S. policy to end the Gaza blockade.
If reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is successful, it could bring change.
The Palestinian Authority has already indicated that it will take steps to increase its support to Gaza, ending limits on salary payments, medical supply transfers, and payments for electricity that it put in place during the last year. Unity also would likely result in an opening of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt which would allow more Palestinians from Gaza to travel abroad.
But many obstacles remain in place and could derail the agreement. Some obstacles arise from the positions of the parties, and both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas will need to make hard concessions as they agree on how to share power. However, positions and actions taken by Israel and the United States also could derail reconciliation, and action is needed to ensure that the United States supports this important process.
Past efforts at forming a Palestinian unity government that would bring Hamas into the fold have resulted in the United States threatening funding cuts and other punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority.
Contact your representatives today to tell them that the U.S. should offer full diplomatic and political support to this reconciliation process and should support and end to the Gaza blockade.
For a decade Palestinians in Gaza have suffered as a result of disunity and the blockade. The recent agreement presents a rare seed of hope in Gaza. Through your support that seed can be nourished and grown.