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by RAY FLEMING
l IN Palestine and Iraq elected politicians have been struggling for months to put together governments of “national unity” without success. The Iraqis have been negotiating for more than two months since their parliamentary elections and, despite the efforts of the US Ambasador in Baghdad to knock heads together, agreement still eludes them. The Palestinians have been at it for several weeks but at the weekend the victorious Hamas party, had to admit that it could not find a partner to join it in government, and decided to go it alone. A slate of ministers was submitted to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, whose approval is awaited. The “dream ticket” would have been a coalition of Fatah, the former governing party, and the incoming Hamas, since the participation of Fatah would have offered some assurance to the United States and Europe, if not to Israel, that the new government of the Palestinian Authority would not be made up wholly of militant Hamas ministers. In the event, however, Israel lost no time in denouncing the new government as a “pariah regime” which had decided “to conduct themselves outside the norms of international legitimacy”. Since the Hamas government has not taken office, pending Mr Abbas's approval, Israel's statement seems premature as does its further observation that “most governments in the world will not be dealing with them”. It is true that the probable prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, and foreign minister, Mahmoud Zahar, are both hard-line Hamas politicians who are unlikely, at least until Israel is ready to make reciprocal gestures, to reverse their party's refusal to recognise Israel or to adhere to agreements made between previous Palestinian govenments and Israel. The United States is likely to follow Israel's lead and it is therefore vitally important that the European Union and Russia should take an independent position on maintaining aid to the Palestinians. James Wolfenson, the former World Bank president and now US representative in Gaza, warned recently that the Palestinian territories would quickly descend into chaos if aid is cut and government salaries are not paid. Any attempt to “starve out” Hamas would be disastrous.