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An eighty-nine-year-old woman named Aisha waved her yellow flag, tears in her eyes: “I can’t breathe,” she declared, “but I can cry.”The sudden joyous outpouring reminded some of the euphoria that erupted in 1993, after Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, then Israel’s prime minister, signed the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn.But as Gazans know, Oslo failed to address what many of them believe was the root cause of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians: the dispossession of Palestinians during the Arab–Israeli war of 1948, during which the Jewish state was created.The other chunk of Palestinian territory, the West Bank, lies fifty miles away, with Israeli territory in between.Until 1948 there was no “Gaza Strip”; the area around Gaza City was part of a much larger region of British-ruled Palestine known as the Gaza District, which contained scores of Palestinian villages.During the 1948 war a total of 750,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from all over Palestine.About 200,000 of those living in the south sought refuge in the Gaza City area, which Egypt had seized during the war.This was the thirteenth anniversary of Arafat’s death, and, for the first time since 2007, when the Islamic resistance movement Hamas defeated Fatah in the bloody civil war that followed Hamas’s electoral victory the previous year, it had permitted a public commemoration of Arafat Day.By allowing the celebration, Hamas had given the first substantial sign that it was serious about a new reconciliation deal, signed with Fatah in October.

By forcing Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to speak with one voice President al-Sisi changed the paradigm of willful blindness supporting terrorism.The Egypt-brokered deal is expected to lead to more regular opening of the Rafah crossing.On November 11, 2017, the gray streets of Gaza suddenly turned yellow as tens of thousands of people came out to wave the flag of Fatah, the party of their former leader Yasser Arafat.Some Gazans have dared to hope the deal might even pave the way for tentative new discussions about wider peace.A carnival atmosphere took hold across the besieged strip during the commemoration, with children selling sweets and cakes.

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