MIDDLE EAST. Late April 2014 may result momentous as one of the most significant events in the past decade occurred in the Middle East. Fatah and Hamas at last reconciled. These implacable political enemies finally agreed to form a national unity government controlling both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and they will convene presidential and parliamentary elections in the near future. This agreement denotes the end of a seven-year split in Palestinian society.
However, this rapprochement between the main Palestinian political forces resulted in terminating the already stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and puts in doubt any further continuation of the US driven settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The reaction of Israel as to suspend the peace talks in response to a truce between Fatah and Hamas was easily to be foreseen. Tel Aviv officially classifies Hamas as a terrorist organization, due to the Hamas’ appeals for the destruction of Israel as a state and repeated rocket launching towards the territory of Israel. Fatah, in turn, claimed that there was no obstacle to continue negotiations with Israel and was surprised by Israel’s reaction, while Hamas representatives argued that the Palestinian “unity” would (should) benefit not only Palestinians but also the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The ongoing events and the pressure of Obama’s administration on Israel to settle the conflict seemed to demand significant concessions from Tel Aviv. However, the present situation gives the perfect playground for the Israeli authority to withdraw from the route towards peace and the establishment of secure and recognized borders as well as mutual recognition by both sides. Now Washington cannot criticize Tel Aviv for suspension of the peace talks, as maintaining a dialogue with Hamas has never been an option neither for Israel nor for the West.
The Israeli leadership seemed willing to compromise with Palestinians, demanding the absolute recognition of Israel as a Jewish state by the Palestinian authority as a condition to the potential peace agreement. However, as is known, this recognition may have harmful repercussions on the return options for Palestinian refugees and undermine the rights of the Arab minority residing in Israel. Therefore, it is not likely to expect such a step from Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. High rank representatives of Hamas, as said above, have never shown the will to recognize Israel and have always voiced their adamant tough stance against Tel Aviv, whereas Fatah is eager to recognize Israel but not under these terms.
At the same time, “surprised” international community, in turn, has an ambiguous position towards the Fatah-Hamas situation. Some consider that the position of Palestine towards Israel will radicalize and harden. In this respect, Mahmoud Abbas selected an appropriate moment to make a statement condemning the Holocaust to show the international community that their fears of a hardening “line” in the negotiations with Tel Aviv are unfounded.
In general, the division between Fatah and Hamas has favoured Israel. Therefore, this unification primarily reflects the desire of the Palestinians to strengthen their position in negotiation process. The Palestinian leadership is hardly satisfied with “interim” measure on issues such as the case of Jerusalem, territorial questions and refugees, which incite growing criticism in the Palestinian community, especially youth. In this respect, the agreement with Hamas will help to reduce the pressure.
An important aspect to underscore is the elections, which are important for both parties. If Fatah-Hamas deal is a matter of fact, the elections will be held in stable environment, which stipulates the necessity political unity.
Moreover, neither Fatah nor Hamas are at their best right now. Hamas’ popularity is allegedly in decline and observers emphasize the loss of support of Iran and the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt having negative impact on Hamas. Likewise, Fatah apparently was losing credibility in the eyes of Palestinians. Thus, the present moment seems to be right for the political rearrangements.
Indisputably, it is early to predict the successful outcome of the process of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Similar “agreements” were announced tow years ago but remained “paper” declarations. It is yet to expect how the peace and their mutual “co-existence” process are going to be implemented. It is undeniably going to be complicated because the divergence has always been large. In case the outcome is successful, it will help to stand united as Palestinians, outline the “common” goals and position and carry more weight in the peace negotiations with Israel.