Fatah and Hamas are slated to announce their unity government today.
Preemptively, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned the world yesterday not to recognize the new Fatah- Hamas government. Not only would the deal add obstacles to peace, explained Netanyahu, it would “strengthen terrorism.”
“I call on all responsible elements in the international community not to run to recognize the Palestinian government of which Hamas is a part and which rests on Hamas,” Netanyahu said. “Hamas is a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel and the international community must not embrace it. This will not strengthen peace; it will strengthen terrorism.”
We agree with Netanyahu. Nevertheless, a number of arguments have been put forward in favor of the unity government.
Indeed, Palestinians are overwhelmingly for the deal. Some say that reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is good for peace because finally, after seven years, Palestinians have a single political leadership that represents the entire Palestinian people. No longer will Israel be able to claim that Abbas’s government represents at best only Palestinians living on the West Bank.
However, these supporters of reconciliation ignore the fact that Hamas continues to call for the violent destruction of the State of Israel. Just last week in Gaza City, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told reporters that the “resistance that liberated the Gaza Strip is also capable of liberating the West Bank, Jerusalem and the rest of our land.” As reported by The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh, Hamas’s two most senior representatives, Khaled Mashaal and Mahmoud Zahar, have said they will continue to use violence against Israel even after the formation of the unity government, emphasizing that Hamas has no intention of dismantling its military wing, Izzadin Kassam, as part of the unity accord.
Zahar has said Hamas is planning to take advantage of the unity deal to move its terrorist attacks against Israel to the West Bank. He also said that after its men set foot in the West Bank, Hamas will target Palestinians who “collaborate” with Israel. “Who said that those who are conducting security coordination with Israel would remain forever?” he asked, referring to the Fatah-dominated security forces in the West Bank.
In a marvelous exercise in maintaining at one and the same time two radically contradictory messages, as Abbas claims the new Fatah-Hamas government will recognize Israel and use peaceful means for solving the conflict, Hamas officials are saying the exact opposite.
Another argument put forward by supporters of the Fatah-Hamas deal is that the reconciliation will facilitate Palestinians’ first democratic national elections since 2006, when Hamas routed Fatah. Moving ahead with new elections would strengthen Palestinians’ fledgling democracy and give new hope to Palestinians, who have grown apathetic and pessimistic about the efficacy of political activism and the democratic process.
While elections might end Palestinians’ long period of political limbo, there is no guarantee that new elections will vote for a more moderate Palestinians leadership. There is some room for optimism, however. A poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey that was published in March said that in parliamentary elections, Fatah would receive 43 percent of the vote and Hamas would receive 28 percent. Assuming similar results are obtained if and when elections are held, Israel might reconsider renewing ties with a Palestinian government coalition that does not include Hamas. However, until that happens, Israel must cut ties with the PA.
Back in 2006 after Hamas’s electoral victory, the Quartet – the US, the UN, the EU and Russia – imposed three conditions on Hamas: renounce terrorism, recognize Israel and honor past agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israel. Until Hamas agreed to these three conditions, the Quartet said it could not recognize a Palestinian government that includes Hamas.
Hamas not only has refused to accept any of these conditions, it continues to openly declare its intention to use violence against Israel – and against Palestinians who dare to coordinate security arrangements with Israel.
Anyone listening to what Hamas is actually saying understands that not only will the unity deal fail to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but that it will only boost terrorists and the opponents of peace.