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Analysis: In Gaza: New Leader, Old Problems

Council on Foreign Relations

November 13, 2006
Prepared by: Eben Kaplan

After months of political infighting, international sanctions, and incessant Israeli military strikes, a reprieve of sorts for the divided Palestinian Authority (PA) appears imminent. The rival Fatah and Hamas factions of the PA seem to have finally agreed on a unity government. Tapped to lead the new government is Mohammed Shabir, a U.S.-educated biologist with no official ties to either major party (al-Jazeera). In an interview with Haaretz, Shabir said that while he is independent, he maintains “sound relations with all.” David Makovsky, a Middle East expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, tells CFR.org’s Bernard Gwertzman that while little is certain, a new Palestinian government marks “a potential turning point” that bodes well for the region, though he cautions that a potential U.S. change of tack on Iran has prompted “nervousness in Jerusalem.”

Along with Shabir, the new Palestinian cabinet will likely include a number of other moderates in an effort to placate Western donors who cut off aid when Hamas won the January elections (Haaretz). Though finalizing the new government may take several weeks, Palestinian leaders hope fresh leadership can entice the United States and European Union to lift their crippling sanctions against the PA. But an influx of funding will hardly resolve the plethora of problems facing the Palestinians. Unity government or not, Palestinians remain divided over such hot-button issues as the recognition of the Israeli state, particularly after errant Israeli artillery fire killed eighteen Palestinians in Gaza last week (BBC). Furthermore, Palestinian militants still hold captive the Israeli soldier who was abducted in June. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he’s ready to swap prisoners (JPost), but such a deal has yet to materialize.


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Copyright 2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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