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Second Time’s a Charm?

Probably not; but this Fatah-Hamas deal is more interesting than the last one

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President Abbas in Qatar today.(-/AFP/Getty Images)

What makes this reconciliation different from the last one?

The Fatah-Hamas deal, struck by Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Meshaal with the backing of emerging regional power broker Qatar, is as vague: The only step forward appears to be clear agreement that Palestinian Authority President Abbas, of Fatah, will be president. Yet there is some reason to believe that this deal may stick, at least for a little longer than the last one: Both sides need it a little bit more now. The P.A. is losing support, while Hamas is newly active in the West Bank; yet Hamas, which just had to abandon its longtime host in Damascus, is going broke. Just generally, the Palestinian cause needs a shot in the arm right now: As Prime Minister Fayyad pointed out last week, the Arab Spring has sapped what has frequently been the Arab world’s cause célèbre of its usual prestige and glamour. (Fayyad’s future will be a major roadblock as the unity government goes forward: Abbas will want him to stay on as head of government, in part because he is a crucial guarantor of Western support; but the Western-educated, technocratic, relatively moderate Fayyad is anathema to Hamas.)

There is the inconvenient but unavoidable fact that Hamas continues to insist on the right to armed struggle and to all of the land between the river and the sea. The peace process, however, has long been premised on the notion that each side is going to give up something. If Hamas will never give that demand up (and it may well not), then neither peace nor the unity government will work. As long as there is even a nominal peace process, however, we are operating under the assumption that Hamas is capable of adopting, as a negotiating precondition, the assumption that Israel has the right to exist. (Again, not saying it will do this, just that if it doesn’t all this talk is moot.) Moreover, Fatah-Hamas unity was going to have to happen to make the peace process work: Hamas’ popularity means it will need to be part of whichever group speaks on behalf of the Palestinian people. The best we can do is hope that the prerogatives of power and legitimacy and its being cut off from Damascus and Tehran will exert a genuinely moderating influence on the group. So, while Prime Minister Netanyahu is right to repeat the line he used several months ago, during Reconciliation 1.0—that Abbas must choose between peace with Israel or peace with Hamas—we observers can at least entertain the prospect of future Hamas reform.

And it’s telling that, while saying the above publicly (Netanyahu also said the time was “not good” for progress), the Israeli government—which surely knew this deal was coming—has also made some interesting offers privately. It suggested that the current West Bank barrier serve as the future borders of a Palestinian state—which would make for a smaller Palestine than the Palestinians would desire, but that’s why they call it negotiating. And, intriguingly, Israel stepped back from demands for permanent control of the Jordan Valley, insisting only on a “long-term” presence. (Zvika Krieger noticed this change.)

If I were a betting man—and given that I thought the Patriots were going to win last night, thank God I’m not—I’d bet against this working out: Hamas still believes what it believes, which is that Israel doesn’t have the right to exist, and it is not so hard-pressed to change tack. But Reconciliation 2.0 seems a little less ridiculous than Reconciliation 1.0, suggesting it’s conceivable that 4.0 or 5.0, a couple years down the road, will be promising.

Palestinian Factions Reach Unity Deal [NYT]
Support for Palestinian Authority Erodes as Prices and Taxes Rise [NYT]
Fayyad Says Palestinians ‘Marginalized’ By Arab Spring [Bloomberg]
Israel Proposes West Bank Barrier as Border [AP/ABC News]
Earlier: Is Meshaal Stepping Down to Step Up?
On Reconciliation, ‘The Devil Is in the Details’

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Ephraim says:

The parasite (Hamas) is in the process of laying its eggs in the host (Fatah). At some point these eggs will hatch in the soft innards of Fatah, and when they do, the Hamas maggots will drive Fatah to maddness and death, like those parasite-infected zombie bees, who, unbeknownst to themselves, do whatever the parasites tell them to do until they go mad and die.

Fatah is a relic of secular Arab nationalism. Its days are numbered. The only difference between Gaza and the “West Bank” will be that the Hamas takeover may be relatively peaceful rather than bloody. In any event, there is no way that Fatah will survive as an independent entity except perhaps in name only, for propaganda purposes. (However, since the “peace process” is predicated on the obviously false belief that Fatah actually wants to make peace with an intact Israel, this is a moot point.)

Everywhere in the Arab world, the Islamists are in the ascendency, and Hamas, as the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood (who, along with the Salafists, has secured almost total control of the Egyptian parliament) is in a position to completely take over.

The best outcome for Israel is for Egypt to collapse in a heap, as it will almost certainly do in the not-too-distant future, once all of its foreigh reserves are exhausted and it has no money to buy the 50% of the food it needs to import to feed its people.

When Egyptians are starving in the streets and people are rioting for food instead of over the outcome of a soccer match, then we’ll see then how much anyone cares about the so-called “Palestinian national movement” (which is neither Palestinian, national, or a movement. Discuss).

“we observers can at least entertain the prospect of future Hamas reform” Get real!
I am an Israeli who believes in thetwo state solution. But I am a realist and I know who Hamas is. Furthermore, the recent victories of their Muslim Brotherhood Islamist brothers in Egypt will
only give them more support. It breaks my heart to say so but there is no prospect for the peace process in the near future.
I dont know why some American liberals dont
seem to get it. Yes, I too yearn for peace (more than you, I actually live here)
but I dont live in some kind of fantasy land that denies who Hamas is.
Dont expect two states anytime within the
next 15 years – if ever. Just pray that the violence will be limited, Hamas will be defeated and Israel will survive.

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Second Time’s a Charm?

Probably not; but this Fatah-Hamas deal is more interesting than the last one

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