The odd couple in the Middle East

Interesting how the Washington Post and New York Times labeled their brief notes about the current Hamas-Fatah dispute over who will be prime minister in their new joint government.

The Post’s caption was “Hamas-Fatah talks stall over key post” — a downer. The Times's caption for its coverage of the same subject was “Fatah and Hamas Leaders to Meet,” a positive perspective.

Both brief articles reported the same fact — that the two factions failed to agree on what the Post called “a prime ministerial pick.” That is obviously not good news about the ability of the new joint government to move forward in critical negotiations on behalf of the Palestinians it represents. The more upbeat New York Times comment was that the two party chiefs will meet in Cairo next week “to finalize the makeup” of the unity government. If they can’t agree on a prime minister, they might not make up.

The Palestinians in the West Bank look to Fatah and those in Gaza to Hamas, but the two representative organizations have fundamentally different goals, it appears. Hamas makes Fatah look good to observers who wish the Israelis and Palestinians would make peace. Here we go again. Recall that under Arafat in Oslo, Fatah walked away from a good deal, not taking “yes” for an answer. Now Fatah is “stalled,” and Hamas is “meeting” next week. One wonders whether the Post and the Times editors meant to suggest this nuanced difference.


Ronald Goldfarb is a Washington-based attorney and author.

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