Haniyeh and Abbas waving 521.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If past Fatah-Hamas reconciliations are any indicator, this one will have the
life expectancy of a fruit fly. No sooner did the secular Fatah try to sell the
agreement as a move toward peace than the Islamist Hamas declared just the
In the realm of odd bedfellows, the winners appear to be the
terrorist group looking for international acceptance, its Iranian mentors, and
Israel’s rejectionist Right, some of whom are calling for West Bank annexation
and economic sanctions in retaliation. None is interested in a peace agreement
that would see Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to say this unity pact endangers the peace
process wrongly assumes there was one to begin with. He and PA President Mahmoud
Abbas have been doing their darndest to avoid two things: serious negotiations
and the blame for their absence.
Fatah and Hamas have signed
reconciliation pacts in the past, only to see them quickly
Factors bringing the two sides together this time include
Fatah’s frustration with the deadlocked peace process, which it blames on weak
American and Israeli leadership, and Hamas’ realization that the changes
sweeping the Arab world are led by liberal, secular forces, not by authoritarian
Islamists, plus the prospect of losing its patron and sanctuary in
Netanyahu must be pleased that Abbas has rescued him from having
to offer dramatic concessions when he comes to Washington later this
And it now appears doubtful that President Barack Obama, the
target of a scathing attack by Abbas in a Newsweek interview for his handling of
the peace process, will be inclined to produce his own peace initiative, as was
expected only a week ago.
Abbas insists he is in charge of the peace
process regardless of Hamas’ rejection, but he knows no Israeli government can
negotiate with – much less make concessions to – a Palestinian government
half-controlled by a terrorist group committed to the three No’s: no
recognition, no negotiations, no Israel.
A top Hamas leader, Mahmoud
al-Zahar, said: “Our program does not include negotiations with Israel, or
Power sharing between these two bitter rivals is
mind-boggling. I suppose part of the division of labor will be that Fatah
continues relations with Israel while Hamas handles the terrorism against
Faux newsman Stephen Colbert aptly observed that the unity pact
means “They’ve agreed to hate the Jews together.”
EVEN BEFORE their
agreement was signed, Hamas had begun pressing Abbas to rescind PLO recognition
of Israel. The two bitter rivals have diametrically opposed goals. Fatah seeks a
secular national state, while Hamas wants an Islamic republic. Their differences
were emphasized again this week when Fatah welcomed the death of Osama bin Laden
as “good for the cause of peace” and Hamas condemned the American assassination
of “an Arab holy warrior.” Abbas sees the unity government as bolstering his
strategy of winning UN recognition of statehood this fall – something strongly
opposed by Washington and Jerusalem.
Prominent bipartisan players on
Capitol Hill are already talking of cutting the $400 million annual aid to the
Palestinian Authority. They insist that its apparent decision to bring the
terrorist group into its leadership is a violation of law governing
Hamas is demanding that Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad – the only PA
leader with any credibility when it comes to finances, security cooperation and
institution building – leave office as a condition for the unity
A major concern for Israel is the possible integration of
Hamas figures into the US-financed PA security forces, which until now have
earned Israeli praise for professionalism and cooperation.
calls for an interim government of technocrats to run things until elections can
be held sometime next year. For Hamas, this will be an opportunity to
reestablish its political – and terror – infrastructure on the West Bank,
especially if Fatah agrees to its demands and releases hundreds of Hamas
How will Abbas respond when his new partner and its allies
continue to fire rockets into Israel? And what happens when Israel hits back?
Rep. Gary Ackerman called the pact “a recipe for failure, mixed with violence,
leading to disaster” and something that “will be paid for in the lives of
innocent Israelis.” Look for the administration to resist pressure from the Hill
to push it farther than it might want to go in moving against Fatah, while
trying to avoid looking like it is protecting Hamas.
No matter how he
tries to frame it, Abbas is surrendering to Hamas and betraying everything he
has said he stands for – a negotiated peace, two states living side by side, a
rejection of terrorism.
Those who insist Fatah-Hamas unification will
facilitate charting a course toward democracy should recall the expectations
that Israel’s Gaza withdrawal would provide Palestinians with a showcase for
Abbas shrugs that off and insists his marriage of
convenience will enhance his chances for UN recognition. If it lasts that