Yes, Hamas is already taking over

Should the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement be welcomed or opposed? This depends on which of the two parties ends up dominating the other.

For the moment, the factions may have agreed to co-operate for domestic reasons and to help smooth the way towards the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state in September.

But make no mistake: they remain bitter rivals, with vastly different strategies for the future of their people. Since 2007, when Hamas threw Fatah out of Gaza in a coup, one - Hamas - has concentrated on building up its arms so that it can eventually defeat Israel militarily. The other, Fatah, has preferred to build up the institutions of its own future state.

Which vision will prevail?

Hamas's Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh spent this week "condemning" the assassination of Osama bin Laden, "an Arab holy warrior", while the man responsible for driving the West Bank's self-improvement programme, Fatah Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, appears to be on his way out, at Hamas's insistence.

The signs so far, then, are that whatever the formal arrangements are, the terror organisation is swallowing Fatah.

This is an incredibly dangerous moment for Israel, which has spent the past few years co-operating with Fatah's security forces and rooting out much of the terror infrastructure on the West Bank.

But this new national government is a disaster first and foremost for the West Bank Palestinians, who appear to be throwing away years of civic and economic progress to throw in their lot with the radical Islamists. The fact is that no government that includes Hamas, an avowed terror group dedicated to the destruction of Israel, can possibly be a partner for peace.

Is it too much to expect US President Barack Obama, freshly empowered by his triumph in Pakistan, to take a stand against those who hold up bin Laden as a role model?

Miriam Shaviv is a JC columnist

Last updated: 10:04am, May 5 2011