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Different Views on the Hamas-Fatah Unity Deal

May 2, 2011

While the immediate negative reaction to the proposed unity deal between Hamas and Fatah was predictably swift in the U.S., we still don’t know what the specific terms of the deal are and the preliminary negotiations don’t mean that unification is a done deal- they have tried this several times in the past, only to never seal the deal. Some of our allies have not been as negative, for example Britain, and have cautiously welcomed the end of the long-standing division between Hamas and Fatah.

Let me say this at the outset- Hamas should renounce violence and recognize Israel. However, I am wondering whether even if Hamas did do that, Israel and the U.S. would be any more accepting of unification?

Also, while we have long said we won’t deal with Hamas, many foreign policy “experts,” not to mention the people actually living in the region, admit that without some sort of rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas, a resolution of the conflict/occupation will never take place. In fact, some in Israel have often claimed that negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas [Fatah] were largely irrelevant because he only represented a fraction of the Palestinian population.

Daniel Levy, former Israeli negotiator at Oslo 2 and Taba, gives a somewhat less negative take on recent events (excerpt):

Palestinian division, playing so-called “moderates” against “extremists”, had been a cornerstone of US (and Israeli) policy. If the Palestinian unity deal holds – and caution is well-advised with the details yet to be agreed, and with a history of false dawns – that cornerstone will be no more. It would be inaccurate to attribute this development to any radical departure in policy on the part of the Obama administration. Rather, this development is best understood against a backdrop of attrition, combined with new, post Arab Spring regional realities. The attrition part is obvious: there has been relentless growth in Israeli settlements and control of the territories over the years. When Oslo was signed in 1993, there were 111,000 settlers in the West Bank alone; today, that number exceeds 300,000, and 60% of the West Bank and all of East Jerusalem remain under exclusive Israeli control. And then there has been the impunity unfailingly granted to Israel by the US.

What has changed is that, in a region in democratising flux, Egypt no longer plays the role of status quo guarantor and is rediscovering a capacity for enacting regional policy that is independent, constructive and responsive to domestic opinion. The shift in Egypt’s outlook was key to delivering the Palestinian reconciliation breakthrough.

The Fatah-Hamas deal will, inevitably, meet with a rocky reception in the US. Congress may move to defund the PA, security assistance may be withdrawn, and official Israeli talking points (“they chose peace with the terrorists over peace with Israel”) will be warmly received on Capitol Hill. But will this reconciliation deal, if it holds, really be a negative development for the Palestinians, the US or even Israel?

For the Palestinians themselves, internal unity seems a prerequisite for developing a new national platform and strategy, and for reviving a legitimate, empowered and representative PLO. Unity creates one Palestinian address, the likelihood of a more robust negotiating posture, and provides an on-ramp for Hamas to engage in the political process, should it so choose. Crucial to any strategy will be a Palestinian adherence to international law and, in that context, to non-violence.

The Palestinians would best avoid preemptively cutting any ties to the US, but reduced dependence on the US, including the possible suspension of US aid, could be far from disastrous and might facilitate more productive and challenging Palestinian approaches to attaining their own freedom. Unity, or even a UN vote for recognition, will not in itself constitute a fully-fledged strategy or end of occupation. Huge challenges remain: managing security coordination (internal and external), running a limited self-governing authority that depends on Israeli goodwill to function and, not least, alleviating the closure-induced misery of Gaza. Unity, though, may be a crucial first step in developing a more compelling local and global Palestinian strategy – especially with the new prospect of meaningful Egyptian support…

Another view of unification is here. And the Israeli blog +972 does a good job of looking at some of the pragmatic reasons why Hamas and Fatah may have been willing to end their feud and it’s worth a read.

I honestly don’t know what the chances are of Hamas’ political wing actually becoming more moderate. Perhaps it’s naive to think they would suddenly do the right thing. But of course, many said the same about the IRA/Sein Fein in the 90’s.

I do know that it seems like the U.S. and Israel have no Plan B regarding how to deal with Hamas, even if Israel and Fatah/PA did through some miracle reach a deal that would end the conflict and create two states.

And then I saw this. Apparently some on the right think that now would be a good time to basically give Gaza back to Egypt and let Hamas be their problem. That leaves only the disposition of the West Bank to be settled. That is truly a radical proposal but after googling it, I was surprised to see just how quietly popular an idea this is to many on the right. Even Israeli MK’s have tossed out the idea. Under Mubarak, Egypt had no interest in taking control of Gaza.

It’s interesting to note that in Israel, there’s a bit more tolerance for an open debate on this issue.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Seamus permalink
    May 2, 2011 8:57 pm

    Great post, thanks for providing all the various viewpoints and links. I like Dan Levy- too bad he’s not an adviser to your president. It sounds like everyone on team Obama is obsessed with kissing Bibi’s tush- too much Ziocaine isn’t good for you 😉

    Too bad the Arab Spring hasn’t spread to Palestine. ‘Course if it did the US and maybe Europe would just ignore it (except N. Ireland of course! We haven’t forgotten Rachel Corrie) Sorry mates but it’s true.

  2. Thain permalink
    May 3, 2011 7:02 am

    Great post. Thanks for all the different views (as Seamus said).

    I guess people aren’t interested in this issue? Maybe if you throw in something about Obama’s birth certificate people will come discuss this issue 😉 Oh well.

    Amira Hass from Haaretz is saying that ultimately the West Bank and Gaza will be completely separate in every way- there already is a separation of course and no freedom of travel. But the hope of Israel’s right is that they will be completely severed and a peace agreement will be impossible- geographically it’s becoming less likely there will be two states. Every Israeli leader has been caught saying (bragging?) that the settlements will prevent the Palestinians from getting much in the way of real estate, particularly with respect to East Jerusalem. That is why I have totally lost faith in this admin- they KNOW settlements are for the purpose of taking land from any future palestinian state and yet they just throw up their hands and go “oh, well we can’t force Israel to do anything, sometimes countries do things we don’t want.” Bullsh*t, we most certainly can force them to stop settlements but everyone is worried about the J Lobby.

    • May 3, 2011 8:01 am

      Ah well, what can you do?

      I actually posted this over at Taylor Marsh so I thought I’d cross post it here. There’s a lot going on in the Mideast but I’ve sort of been ignoring some of it to be honest because you honestly could have a whole blog devoted to just that and quite frankly I am considering starting another blog for just that one issue, while keeping this one also, because I know a lot of people who come here a) aren’t really interested in this issue and b) don’t agree with me at ALL on this issue, although I really do try to provide different viewpoints. I feel like since the media basically provides one narrow view of what is going on, I have a responsibility to highlight sources that aren’t usually seen/heard in the United States. It frustrates me how one-sided the debate is- in a way, it’s almost dishonest.

  3. Lulu permalink
    May 4, 2011 1:13 pm

    Once again thanks for a thoughtful analysis. Too bad people don’t want to discuss it. I guess the birth certificate and shooting Osama in the face is worthy of 24/7 coverage.

    As you probably know, the unity deal was signed today and Bibi is thrilled- it gives him more excuses not to do anything but complain about how he has no partner for peace which was pretty much what he was saying when Hamas wasn’t in the picture.

    At the end of the day Israel doesn’t want a two state solution and why should they? Right now they have real estate from Palestine, Jordan and Syria. If they end the occupation they can no longer steal Palestinian land and they can’t steal all the Palestinians water and natural resources, including natural gas. That’s the big untold story in all of this- the US media ignores how Israel illegally diverts water from the Occupied Territories to the settler communities. Some kids don’t even get the requisite amount of water they need a day. Israel also benefits from illegally selling goods made in the Occupied Territories. They benefit from ensuring the Palestinian economy remains strangled so they don’t have to compete. and of course they steal olive and lemon groves to boost the Israeli, not Palestinian, economy.

    Almost every day there are stories in the Palestinian, Arab press and also from Jewish human rights blogs about how Israel allows settlers to run sewage through Palestinian farmland, cut down their olive trees, kill their livestock etc. I guess the US media stationed over in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem can never leave their cozy offices to report on that, huh? Would it kill Isabel Kershner to do some actual reporting? God forbid we had Arab journalists reporting in US media. No, that would be terrible. Better to have reporters whose kids are in the IDF and who are dual American-Israeli citizens. Nope no conflict of interest there!

  4. Lulu permalink
    May 4, 2011 1:14 pm

    One more thing- the US will cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority- you can take that to the bank! Why will they do this? Who will be pressuring them? Fill in the blank on that one.

  5. Thain permalink
    May 4, 2011 1:52 pm

    I have a really dumb question so bear with me. I would ask this question regardless of which nations/people were involved. Here it goes:

    Given Israel was founded without the permission of the people already living on the land and given Israel expanded it’s territory and engaged in occupation and continues to illegally annex land, why don’t the Palestinians have a right to self defense? In other words, why can’t they be considered to be similar to any resistance movement, such as the Libyan rebels? Violent resistance isn’t always wrong. Wasn’t the American Revolution founded on principles of violent resistance to British rule?

    So, why can’t the Palestinians fight back when their farms are destroyed, their homes demolished and their children kidnapped by Shin Beit in the night? Are we really supposed to believe that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Bush, or anyone else would tolerate America being treated that way? What right does the US have to lecture anyone on the use of violence to achieve ones goals? To hear Obama and Hillary talk about how these Arab revolutions must not include violence- with the weird exception of Libya- you would think we weren’t involved in 3 wars, not counting all the secret ones. Also, we clearly engage in targeted assassinations and torture when we think it suits our goals, so why can’t the Palestinians defend themselves?

    • stacyx permalink*
      May 5, 2011 8:22 am

      It’s not a dumb question it’s just a question few have the courage to ask. But I think you know the answer- we have a double standard when it comes to Palestinians- they are not allowed to fight back but Israel is. Not only does Israel have the right to self defense but they have a right to preemptively protect their interests, even if it means using disproportionate force in doing so. One person’s freedom fighter is another persons terrorist. The Jewish terrorists who blew up the King David Hotel prior to the founding of Israel are treated like heroes despite the innocent people they murdered. There is a plaque at the King David Hotel commemorating what they did.

      History is written by the victorious and Israel has rewritten history, erased the Palestinian claims to the land and they have justified the brute force of the occupation on the grounds that the Palestinians have no rights to self-defense because THEY HAVE NOTHING TO DEFEND. Look at the Gaza flotilla- an unarmed American citizen shot 7 times at very close range, execution style while he lay helpless on the ground holding a camera. Where was Secy Clinton’s outrage? There was none. In fact, this admin. has bent over backwards to help ensure Israel is found to have done nothing wrong. With such unfair rules it’s only a matter of time before people become hopeless, angry and radicalized.

      Oh, btw, the admin. just released a statement that Bibi has been invited to the WH on May 20th. Bibi will be around for about a week as he speaks to his constituents at AIPAC and undermines the administration’s Mideast peace efforts with his speech before Congress. He’s expected to bang on about Iran, Hamas and talk about how he has no partner for peace. He’ll also be giving Congress their marching orders, meeting with his cheerleaders in the media and also with Jewish groups, who to this day refuse to question anything this guy says or does. He’ll get a raucous standing ovation at AIPAC and Congress and at every special dinner and event he attends. It will be sickening to watch.

      Now that Hamas has joined with Fatah Bibi is giddy as a schoolboy knowing he has yet another excuse to do not one f*cking thing.

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