The two state solution with three parties?

hamas fatah clock gordon (photo credit: Ronny Gordon)
hamas fatah clock gordon
(photo credit: Ronny Gordon)
It has been nearly four years since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. Though there were always gaps between Gazans and West Bankers - as well as Hamas and Fatah - those gaps have since become enormous chasms.
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Every few months, someone initiates a bid for sulha (reconciliation) between the sides, in an attempt to reunite both the two territories as well as the Palestinian people. Yet, as President Mahmoud Abbas’s attempt a few weeks ago attests, almost zero progress has been made.
When they occur, these attempts tend to make official Israel nervous, triggering a fear that reunion would give Hamas a stamp of approval thereby unraveling Israel’s efforts to isolate the group. What most people in Israel - or abroad for that matter, have failed to appreciate is that it is far more likely the two will never reconcile. 
The reason is simple: when all is said and done, the elite hate giving up power. If given the choice, most national leaders would prefer to continue to wield power until they die. Think of how many Muammar Gaddafis or Hosni Mubaraks history has produced versus how few George Washingtons. 
What is true for individuals is exponentially true for groups. As Phil Roeder, a leading researcher of nationalism, argues, this is the reason that since the German Empire was founded in 1871, there have been only five occasions where sovereign states merged of their own free will (Serbia and Montenegro in 1918, Egypt and Syria in 1958, Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964, North and South Yemen in 1990, and West and East Germany in 1990). Of these, Egypt and Syria quickly split up, Serbia and Montenegro recently filled for state divorce, and Yemen is on shaky ground.
At the same time, nearly 200 pairs of states that are good candidates for mergers (because they share ethno-linguistic ties) passed on the opportunity. Indeed, states are far more likely to secede than to merge: during the 20th century, over 100 separatist movements succeeded in splitting off into independent states.
In the Middle East, even if the masses clamored for pan-Arabism, elites realized that mergers would mean that a lot of people will be out of a cushy job - from the president or king to the army chief of staff, even down to the simple bureaucrats.
Closer to home, this same logic explains why so many small townships (Kiryat Ekron, for example) refuse central government attempts to merge them with nearby cities (like Rehovot or Mazkeret Batya). Despite the greater economic efficiency saving local and national taxpayers money, mayors, council members, and city servants know that, for them, this efficiency translates into many of them looking for another line of work.
Which brings us back to Gaza. It may be one of the most cursed patches of territory on earth, but as far as the leaders of Hamas are concerned, at least they know it will likely be theirs to rule for a long time to come. From their perspective, reuniting with the West Bank means that, at best, some of them will play second fiddle to Fatah superiors. Many of those recently commissioned into Hamas’s security forces or bureaucracy will not even be that lucky.
Given this, there is only one realistic prospect for reuniting the two: in a future war with Israel, if Hamas is totally routed and Israel allows Fatah to re-establish control.
Short of this, Israelis need to start making the mental transition to the fact that we no longer are in conflict with “the Palestinians.” We are in conflict with two very different territories, ruled by two very different groups, with whom the issues are not the same.
And again, while many in Israel fear what a successful sulha between Hamas and Fatah would mean, we should realize that the ramifications of the present situation may actually be worse. For example, we could one day find ourselves making enormous concessions in Jerusalem and elsewhere in order to finalize a peace deal with Fatah, only to find that we have a continued state of war with Gaza. Yet at least with regards to Gaza, Israel actually has little left to concede. With not much to gain from a peace settlement, Hamas will have little incentive to lay down their arms.
It is the long-term possibility of war with Hamas, and not intra-Palestinian reconciliation, that Israel should really be fearing.
The writer is the former Deputy Director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center (GLORIA) in Herzliya.