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Two Palestinian Schoolmates Seek Unity in Cairo

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Yahya Sinwar, the new leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, attends the opening of a new mosque in the southern Gaza city of Rafah on February 24, 2017.
(Image by (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90))
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A power-sharing Gaza leadership agreement involving two Palestinian childhood friends, Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Dahlan may be "slowly taking shape."

What led to the reunion of Sinwar and Dahlan is an intriguing story that involves two Palestinian leaders who have known one another since childhood.

Ynetnews reports on that history:

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"Dahlan, now 55, and Sinwar, now 54, grew up in the same neighborhood of southern Gaza's Khan Younis refugee camp. They later attended the same UN school and were students together at Islamic University.

"Dahlan and Sinwar took different political journeys. They joined rival political factions, Fatah and Hamas."

Those two political factions clashed in the 2006 Palestinian general election. In that election, monitored by former President Jimmy Carter, and others, Hamas won a decisive legislative majority over Fatah.

Both Israel and the U.S. misread the political mood within an occupied population. I was present for that election. Like most observors, it quickly became obvious to me that Hamas would win the election.

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Why? Gaza voters resented, or more accurately, hated, control by outside political powers.

In addition, Hamas was a disciplined political party. Fatah was not. Hamas ran slates. Fatah did not. In many districts, Fatah candidates far exceeded available legislative seats. Hamas understood Politics 101; Fatah did not.

If a party wants to win, it limits its candidates to the available openings. And, oh yes, it must give voters something better than what they already have.

Israel -- with U.S. support -- refused to accept the results of that 2006 democratic election. Israel blocked Palestinian parliamentary meetings and jailed many Hamas legislators.

A year later, Israel with U.S support, led Fatah in a military assault against Hamas. The leader of that Fatah assault was Mohammed Dahlan.

Fatah, the U.S., Israel -- and Dahlan -- lost.

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Dahlan has been living in exile since he split with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2010. Now, seven years later, Dahlan is back, ready to advance his Palestinian leadership ambitions against Fatah through Hamas.

Ynetnews described this week's Gaza City rally for Dahlan as the latest indication of a power shift in Gaza which "could lead to big changes in the Hamas-ruled territory, including an easing of a decade-long border blockade".

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James Wall served as a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois, from 1999 through 2017. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced (more...)

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