A historic week. Does it feel historic from where you are coming from?
Karmi: Not really. It feels good. We are very happy that these two Palestinian parties, which have been feuding for years now quite unwisely -- This could only play to Israel's advantage -- finally realized that's not the way forward and they should unite and get together.
That is very good and it's very sensible. However, we really must not get carried away. After all they are talking about a local situation among a third of the worldwide Palestinian people. So we have to put these things in perspective.
Over two hundred demonstrators marched from Tahrir Square to the Israeli embassy this afternoon after jumu’ah, the afternoon prayer for Muslims. The march was coordinated through various Facebook pages; over twenty organizations attended.
The crowd marched through downtown Cairo, carrying Palestinian and Egyptian flags. “The people want a free Palestine!” they shouted. They also called for all Israelis remaining in Egypt to leave.
The accord is bound to lift the spirits of the stateless Palestinians, whose loyalties over the past four years have been torn between the Islamist Hamas and the secular, but increasingly pro-western Fatah. The unity accord also signals the arrival of the ‘Arab Spring' at the doorstep of Palestine. It is extremely unlikely that the agreement would have been signed without a change of leadership in Cairo brought about by Egypt's youthful uprising. By doggedly pursuing both Palestinian factions to break common ground, Egypt's transitional government has demonstrated the first signs of a strategic shift in its thinking: the ground rules of the alliance between Egypt and Israel as interpreted during the Mubarak era have changed. Aligning itself with the Arab awakening, Iran, an ally of Hamas, is also showing significant enthusiasm to re-engage with Egypt. But two major obstacles have to be cleared before ordinary Palestinian can experience tangible change.
Egyptian police were positioned in front of the embassy building, but the atmosphere remained calm. Some men climbed on top of a nearby roof and waved Egyptian and Palestinian flags.
“I’m here because I’d like to go home,” Ahmed, the son of a Palestinian refugee said. His parents are from al-Halil, but he grew up in Cairo.
Ahmed hopes to go to Gaza later this month, he said. May 15th is the annual commemoration of al-Nakba, the Palestinian exodus, and massive demonstrations are planned here in Egypt and in nearby countries.
“Nsha’alla, we’ll all march to Gaza,” Ahmed said, “for the Third Intifada.”
Most of the other groups present at the demonstration, including Freedom Convoy and Misr-Philistine, are also planning to march to the Rafa border and into Gaza. “We’re all going to march on the 15th,” Ahmed explained.
Ahmed introduced himself as a Palestinian, but he’s never been to the country. His parents were forced out. But he hopes to go soon. He described his grandfather’s old property, in a village outside of al-Halil. “I’d like to see that land myself.