The Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, which was announced last month in Cairo, appears to have ended before it started.

It now turns out that the gap between the two rival parties remains as wide as ever, in spite of the accord. Hamas and Fatah continue to disagree on almost everything.

They disagree on who would head a new Palestinian unity government, on members of the government, on the government's political platform, on the future of the peace process with Israel, on security coordination with Israel, on the Palestinian Authority's relationship with the United States and European Union and on the role of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But there are other things where Fatah and Hamas do see eye to eye.

Both parties agree on the need to restrict freedom of speech and the media. The two Palestinian governments continue to display intolerance toward any form of criticism, regardless of its source.

Palestinian journalists and political activists who dare to criticize the governments in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip face arrest, harassment and intimidation. This explains why there is not a single Palestinian opposition newspaper in the West Bank or in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas and Fatah also agree on the need for each party to stay in power at all costs. That's why they don't want to hold new elections. In many ways, the status quo is not bad for the two parties.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority continues to receive millions of dollars in financial aid from the international community. The Palestinian Authority's leaders hold Israeli-issued VIP cards that allow them to travel freely, especially to fancy hotels and restaurants in Tel Aviv.

The VIP cards also allow the Palestinian leaders to pass through Israeli checkpoints without having to wait in line together with ordinary Palestinians.

The status quo is also good for the Palestinian Authority leadership because it is no longer being held responsible for what happens in the Gaza Strip. For example, no one holds the Palestinian Authority responsible for the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip on Israel.

Hamas, on the other hand, has learned from the Palestinian Authority that, in order to stay in power, it must tighten its grip over the population in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas and Fatah agree that democracy and transparency is something that they can live without. They share the perception that repressive police states are the only way to control their people.

Finally, Hamas and Fatah agree on the need to blame Israel all the time for the miseries of the Palestinians. Neither party is prepared to accept responsibility for any wrongdoing.

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