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Netanyahu, Kerry Make Peace…Between Palestinians!

palestinian unity government

Mahmoud Abbas, Qatari emir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and Khaled Mashal (AP/ Osama Faisal)

The unthinkable has happened!  Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary Kerry have made a remarkable achievement.  They made peace…between Hamas and Fatah  (video).  They’ve bridged the unbridgeable, intractable hostility that has festered between the two Palestinian factions for seven years, since a U.S. fomented Fatah coup failed.  The result was a rump Fatah faction controlling the West Bank and Hamas controlling Gaza.  Many previous attempts by Egypt and Gulf States to broker a truce or compromise have failed.  But Israel’s refusal to honor the framework agreed to during earlier negotiations has driven the Palestinian groups into each other’s arms.  It’s quite an achievement (for the emir of Qatar and Egyptian officials, who brokered the agreement); one of which Bibi and Kerry should be proud, though I doubt they’ll see it that way.

Given the two previous failures, it’s proper to exercise caution and wait to see whether the deal holds.  There are many elements to the agreement and it could founder on any of them.  But if it holds, it will have multiple ramifications for future negotiations (if there are any).

First, neither Israel nor the U.S. wants reconciliation.  They want a docile PA upon which they may exert pressure and get a favorable deal.  The PA alone is far more likely to accede to Israeli demands.  A united government will force the PA to come up with an agreement that will also be acceptable to Hamas and its followers, a considerably more demanding constituency.

fatah hamas reconciliation deal

Fatah-Hamas delegation which signed reconciliation agreement (Reuters)

This means Israel may refuse to negotiate at all, as the prime minister indicated when he cancelled the next round of talks.  If Israel’s rejectionist position holds over the long term, then the rest of the world will adopt a far more aggressive position against the Occupation and in favor of BDS.  This will also revive, and add credibility to the Palestinian effort to achieve recognition on the world stage.  You can expect another campaign for recognition of statehood before the General Assembly in the coming months.

This is Abbas’ vote of no confidence in both Kerry and this Israeli government.  It also bodes ill for U.S. policy towards the region.  It certainly signals the failure of the Kerry-led talks.    Till now, our policy has been predicated on a quiescent PA.  With a revived Palestinian movement, it will prove much harder to attain a deal.  This may seal a U.S. decision to commence a period of ‘benign neglect’ regarding the I-P conflict.

The U.S. response was less than enthusiastic:

The U.S. State Department said the timing of the Palestinian reconciliation deal was “troubling” and that it was “disappointed” by the announcement.

“It is hard to see how Israel will negotiate with a government that does not recognize its right to exist,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

Psaki might want to brush up her Shakespeare and ‘ancient’ Israel-Palestine history: in the past this issue was finessed by determining that the PLO would conduct peace negotiations while the Palestinian legislative body, which would include Hamas representatives, would accede to the PLO in this matter. The final deal, if there is one, would be put to the entire Palestinian people, upon which Hamas would agree to go along.

If the U.S. wants to remain the only party in Israel’s rejectionist camp refusing to recognize such a government as a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, then we risk making ourselves the laughingstock of the rest of the world.

Israel’s demand of veto power in determining which Palestinian government it will negotiate with brought to my mind an historical analogy: imagine if when Britain announced it was ready to negotiate its surrender in 1783, George Washington had announced he would only do so if King George expelled a political party from the ruling coalition.  Or if the French in 1962 refused to negotiate peace with the Algerians till the latter’s ruling party expelled leaders whom France disliked.  It’s simply absurd.

The wild card will be how Islamic Jihad and radical Palestinian elements will react.  They may be under no obligation to respect the agreement and may see it as giving them carte blanche to pursue an independent approach that might include terror attacks.  But if those impulses can be reigned in, then the Palestinians may actually eschew armed conflict for a period to determine how the world reacts to their new-found unity (or at least, conciliation).  This would be a real opportunity for the world to step forward and accord Palestine the recognition and respect it deserves, including removing Hamas from terror lists should it continue to eschew armed conflict.  In truth, for there ultimately to be peace, Palestinians must be united in order to maintain any possible agreement they might make.  Without such consensus, there can be no agreement with Israel.

That may be one of the reasons, Netanyahu hates such a prospect.  With it, the world will take Palestinian interests much more seriously and Israeli interests (as interpreted by its ultra-nationalist government) less so.

The success of this new venture depends on the seriousness and adaptability of the parties.  It remains to be seen how strongly Hamas and Fatah are committed to it.  If they are, and there are elections in six months with the winning faction governing the revived PA, it will change the attitude of international leaders to Palestine, and further diminish Israel’s status.

A recent poll by An-Najah University indicates strong support both for a unity government and talks with the Israelis.  The poll found that if elections were held now Fatah would hold a plurality and Hamas would come in a distant second.  If those are the actual election results, it remains to be seen whether Hamas will be willing to allow the PA to govern in Gaza.  All this will be a new adventure in what one hopes will be responsible governance.

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{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Haver April 23, 2014, 10:03 PM

    Regarding the comment that: “It is hard to see how Israel will negotiate with a government that does not recognize its right to exist,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

    In fact, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are actually joining the PLO under the terms of the agreement. You know, the organization that has formally recognized the state of Israel for more than 20 years now. Nonetheless, Israel and the US have the chutzpah to put a negative spin on the Palestinian reconciliation agreement. FYI, Netanyahu and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton concluded two agreements with Hamas, but won’t let poor Abbas have even one.

  • Haver April 24, 2014, 5:13 AM

    PA official says Hamas accepted two-state solution: Wednesday’s reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas recognizes the existence of Israel and is based on the two-state model, says Jibril Rajoub.
    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.587047

  • Jackdaw April 24, 2014, 8:26 AM

    Now Netanyahu can paint Abbas as a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’, in bed with a terrorist organization and an Iranian proxy.

    Meisterstroke!

    • Richard Silverstein April 24, 2014, 11:18 PM

      @ Jackdaw: When I first read it I thought this comment was meant tongue in cheek. I now see after your second comment that you mean this literally. You poor slob. To believe such narischkeit. I feel sorry for you.

  • Haver April 24, 2014, 5:12 PM

    Jackdaw, Hamas has no ties with Iran, since it severed ties with Assad’s regime in Syria.

    • Jackdaw April 24, 2014, 8:57 PM

      “Jackdaw, Hamas has no ties with Iran, since it severed ties with Assad’s regime in Syria.”

      I was referring to Islamic Jihad, which is an Iranian proxy.

      • Richard Silverstein April 24, 2014, 11:10 PM

        @ Jackdaw:

        I was referring to Islamic Jihad, which is an Iranian proxy.

        You can’t seem to tell the Palestinian players without a scorecard. To recap, you claimed Bibi could paint Abbas as a terrorist & Iranian proxy presumably because of his new relationship with Hamas. But once Haver pointed out that you were wrong, you engaged in a bit of revisionism & claimed you were referring to Islamic Jihad. Now how would Bibi tar Abbas with the IJ brush since Fatah is anti-IJ? Unless you want to come up with yet another stupid non-sequitur explaining yet another error on your part.

        • Nonsense April 25, 2014, 12:03 AM

          IJ is part of the agreement and will be merged together with Hamas into Fatah.
          It was published in every media outlet.

  • Jackdaw April 24, 2014, 11:35 PM

    ” Now how would Bibi tar Abbas with the IJ brush since Fatah is anti-IJ?”

    Hamas is a a Gaza based terror group. Islamic Jihad is a Gaza based terror group with very close ties to Iran.
    While it remains to be played out, this Hamas-Fatah rapproachment will restore Fatah control over Gaza and, de jure, control over Hamas and IJ. To wit; ‘Abbas beds with terror groups’.

    I honestly don’t know how this will play out. Abbas seems to be casting about in all directions and his new policy(s) is not coherent. On it’s face, Netanyahu wins.

    What I do know is that Abbas is a feckless leader who only cares about his legacy and keeping power away from his rivals.

    • Oui April 25, 2014, 11:17 AM

      IDF and Shabak/Shin Bet are terrorist entities based in the state of Israel, accused of war crimes. How can you expect the Palestinian leadership trust PM Netanyahu and a divided cabinet of ministers in a negotiated peace agreement. Bibi himself has confided in a Channel 10 video, he aimed to destroy the Oslo Accords. Israeli government has shunned International Law on numerous occasions, only to be bailed out by a U.S. veto at the UN Security Council. Thanking Negroponte, Danforth, Bolton, Khalilzad, Rice and Power.

      • Jackdaw April 25, 2014, 12:53 PM

        IDF and Shin Bet are terrorist entities?

        Says who? Oui?
        Oui. Please cite to who or what else has designated the IDF and Shin Bet as terrorist entities.
        Show us your links, Oui.

        • Oui April 25, 2014, 1:23 PM

          Just repeating ourselves with nonsense, ’nuff said.

        • Haver April 25, 2014, 3:52 PM

          Regarding IDF and Shin Bet are terrorist entities? Says who? Oui?

          The Irgun and Lehi were the last organizations that openly boasted about the fact that they were terrorists. Both organizations were absorbed into the IDF, which created service medals honoring members of those two groups. The IDF subsequently perpetrated terror attacks and massacres, like the Unit 101 raid on Qibya.

          In the film “The Gatekeepers”, one of the heads of the Shin Bet admitted that it could fairly be labeled as a terrorist organization. The IDF and Shin Beit have worked together to drop 2,000 iron bombs on multi-family dwellings, and in the aftermath of the Eilat attacks and on other occasions, they’ve killed a number of innocent people in so-called “reprisals” that Israel had to subsequently acknowledge were not participating in hostilities. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits extra-judicial killing of civilians at all times and in all places. So yes, the IDF and Shin Beit have a history of illegal terrorist activities and of staging “reprisals” against innocent people and attempting to conceal that fact.

        • Richard Silverstein April 25, 2014, 6:35 PM

          @ Jackdaw: This blog offers compelling evidence that Israeli secret police are often no better than terrorists. They wear better uniforms and earn better benefits. But the mindset and behavior is quite similar.

          Funny that you never offer any evidence for your stupid claims, yet all of a sudden demand evidence from Oui for a claim that isn’t all that extreme.

        • Oui April 27, 2014, 10:20 PM

          Thanks RS!

          Knesset Deputy Speaker Fundraises for Israeli Terror Group

          The Jewish Defense League no longer needs to engage in terrorism as Meir Kahane did, since it essentially runs a shadow Israeli state. It controls vital levers of power that promote the interests of Kahanists and Kahanism. That power runs all the way from the Knesset to the army to the intelligence services. No one in the Israeli state can brook the opposition of Kahanists.

          In other words, they don’t need to be terrorists anymore, since the State has become them. The State’s actions aren’t often described as terror by the mainstream. But it has adopted the goals, interests, and activities of the former terror underground. It doesn’t have to plant bombs and kill Palestinians because the IDF will do the equivalent for them.

          But the ultimate truth here is that one of Israel’s most senior political leaders is consorting with Canadian Jewish extremists who are terrorists in all but name. Welcome to today’s Israel.

          The Jewish Defense League in the U.S. is designated a terrorist body by the State Department. See also ADL webpage with terror attacks perpetrated by followers of the Kahane movement in Israel and the U.S. Yigal Amir, a follower of Meir Kahane, assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on 4 November 1995. It destroyed the peace process and led to the first term of Banjamin Netanyahu. In 2001, Netanyahu was caught on camera telling an Israeli settler family he would destroy the Oslo Accords.

    • Richard Silverstein April 25, 2014, 6:16 PM

      @Jackdaw:

      Hamas is a a Gaza based terror group

      Not quite. Hamas is the governing party in Gaza observing a ceasefire negotiated with the State of Israel & reining in other militant groups in Gaza seeking to fire rockets at Israel. If Hamas is a terror group then so is the IDF and State of Israel.

      While it remains to be played out, this Hamas-Fatah rapproachment will restore Fatah control over Gaza and, de jure, control over Hamas and IJ. To wit; ‘Abbas beds with terror groups’.

      While I can’t outlaw stupidity in the comment rules, this comment is not only stupid, it’s rhetorically idiotic. You say the agreement “remains to be played out,” then proceed to play it out for us. But your scenario hasn’t any basis in reality, even projected reality. Hamas and Islamic Jihad could just as easily become part of the PLO and tacitly or explicitly accept provisions for any agreement the PLO negotiates with Israel (if Bibi would ever permit such a thing, which is doubtful). Saying that Abbas will ever “have control” over Hamas or IJ is again, simply idiotic.

      his new policy(s) is not coherent. On it’s face, Netanyahu wins.

      A right-wing Likudnik telling us Bibi wins. How convenient. Actually, Israel and the U.S. have an incoherent policy. Abbas’ approach may be desperate, but it has a certain logic. Long-term, Abbas and the Palestinians will gain the most.

      Abbas is a feckless leader who only cares about his legacy and keeping power away from his rivals.

      Something which is clearly not true of Bibi Netanyahu.

      Read this carefully: I’m invoking a comment rule. Since you’ve posted far more than 3 commments today, I want ou to understand that you may not monopolize the threads with a blizzard of pro-Israel hasbara. You may only publish THREE comments in any 24 hours period. Starting now.

      • Haver April 25, 2014, 8:29 PM

        Re: Actually, Israel and the U.S. have an incoherent policy.

        Obviously so, since they worry about the content of everyone else’s party platforms, except their own. Obama pushed through a plank in the Democratic party platform that recognized Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel with no mention of Palestine at all, while he has ordered the Solicitor General to take the MBZ v Clinton/Kerry case all the way to the Supreme court twice now and refuses to put Jerusalem, Israel on any US passport.

        During the negotiations on withdrawal from the Jordan Valley, Netanyahu’s own party introduced legislation that recognized it as part of the territory of Israel. The head of the Likud party convention, Danny Danon, reminded Netanyahu that the annexation of the Jordan Valley was part of the Likud party platform and that Bibi was in the wrong party if he didn’t agree. See Danon: ‘Jordan Valley Annexation Part of Likud Party Platform’ http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/175718#.U1sl8KZKauI

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