Different Views on the Hamas-Fatah Unity Deal
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.