Adel Hana / AP
Palestinians ride motorcycles while waving yellow Fatah and green Hamas flags along the streets during a rally celebrating the signing of a reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas, in Gaza city, Wednesday.
By Martin Fletcher, NBC News Correspondent
On paper, it sounds marvelous; but peace in our time, it isn't. Peace, that is, among the Palestinians.
To agree to a unity deal between his Fatah movement and rival Hamas, West Bank leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wanted the two factions to combine their security services into one. A state, Abbas says, can't have two militaries, each loyal to a different master. But Hamas refused and the compromise is that each Palestinian party will have its own security services.
In other words, while agreeing to unite after nearly five years of bitter conflict, including an all-out war in Gaza in May 2007, each side remains prepared for the day after.
But with the Palestinian Authority building the institutions of a state, and collecting guarantees from dozens of countries that they will support the Palestinian application for independence and a full seat in the United Nations in September, it is imperative that Palestinians are united. Or at least, appear so.
After all, Israel's argument against a Palestinian state, for now, has been that the Palestinians are so divided that they can't claim to be a responsible member of the family of nations.
The agreement between Fatah and Hamas scuppers that objection.
So now Israel has raised another objection. They say Hamas is a terrorist organization, recognized as such by Europe and the United States, is sworn to Israel's destruction, and so cannot be part of a legitimate national government. And if it is, that government should not be recognized.
It’s either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said within two hours of the unity agreement's announcement. Abbas chose Hamas.
The problem with Israel's objections is that the Palestinians have been very successful at selling Prime Minister Salam Fayad's construction of Palestinian institutions and getting the world to agree to one key point: The Palestinians want to reform and only Israel stands in the way.
However, with the assassination of Osama bin Laden, the Palestinians, in this case Hamas, shot themselves in the foot allowing Israel to claim, as its ambassadors have been told to do worldwide at every opportunity, that despite appearances, nothing's changed. Hamas could not have been more helpful to Israel.
Ismail Haniya, Hamas leader in the Gaza strip, condemned America for assassinating bin Laden, calling him "a holy Arab warrior."
Israel poured oil onto this fire by broadcasting a video on Israel’s channel 10 showing an imam in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque eulogizing bin Laden. He told the worshippers: "The dogs of the West murdered one of the lions of Islam."
The dogs would be America. The lion of Islam would be bin Laden. The speaker added about President Barack Obama: "You should know that you will soon swing from a rope."
Assuming the video is genuine, and nobody so far has doubted it, there must be a lot of red faces in Ramallah. This is not the face of Palestine that Fatah leaders want the world to see.