I’ll take fuller stock tomorrow of today’s consummation of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal, once the dust has settled slightly. For now, though, it is worth considering the contents of a report prepared by career diplomats (which is to say, not Yisrael Beiteinu political appointees) in Israel’s foreign ministry. Haaretz reports this paper is crystal-clear about the “security threat” posed by reconciliation—bringing at it does the potential for a renewed Hamas presence in the West Bank and for Fatah to radicalize to match its new ally—but also the potential “strategic opportunity to create genuine change in the Palestinian context” in “the long-term interests for Israel.”
Haaretz leads with the contradiction between the report and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s public statements, which have been adamant that Fatah, in choosing to make peace with Hamas, has chosen not to make peace with Israel. But actually, the two are not necessarily inconsistent. The report seems to acknowledge that this is what Fatah has done.
Yet instead of shutting diplomacy down, it sees Fatah’s decision as a chance, first, to “sharpen the dilemma on the Palestinian side,” and, second, to gain international respect and, more crucially, make it easier for the United States to go to bat for it as September’s U.N. General Assembly—at which the Palestinians are threatening to try for recognition of independence—approaches. “Israel must be a team player and coordinate its response to a Palestinian unity government with the administration,” the report argues, according to Haaretz (“the administration” being that of President Obama). “This will empower the United States and serve Israeli interests.” Given that the Obama administration’s most recent U.N. action related to Israel was a veto of a Security Council resolution condemning settlements, it is only logical for Israel to do what it can to strengthen the U.S. hand.
The deal is possibly very bad for Israel, the report seems to be saying, but it has happened, and the best thing Israel can do is try to shape it to its advantage—by sending a delegation to Cairo and by continuing to cooperate on security with Fatah—and, by acknowledging it (however begrudgingly), try to stave off the broader international movement that is against the Jewish state’s interests. You can wish this deal had never gone down (which it just did), and you can wish it will self-implode under the weight of its own contradictions (which remains quite possible), but, as always, wishing won’t make it so.