Two to tango, three to destroy the Israel-Palestine peace process
What does Palestinian unity mean for the peace process?
Despite the plethora of media reports indicating that Hamas and Fatah are imminently reconciling as though it is unprecedented, previous attempts at unification in the recent term - in both Doha in 2012 as well as in Cairo in 2011 - have epically failed. Notably, this was not because of pressure from Israel - who firmly maintains that they will not sit down at the table with any Hamas-affiliated party - but because the two groups ultimately reached a stalemate over basic policy issues including publicly and officially recognizing the state of Israel. While both groups have recently stated newfound support for the other, less than six weeks ago in the Gaza Strip, Hamas confiscated Fatah posters and thwarted a rally in support of the group in what the New York Times referred to as “a sign of the enduring political and geographical schism between Hamas, in Gaza, and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.” Meanwhile, in the West Bank, even amid the seemingly collective eagerness to unify, the Palestinian Authority has reportedly continued to arrest supporters of Hamas.
Granted, Hamas remains more isolated than ever before and Fatah is equally as frustrated due to peace talks with Israel continuing to spiral into failure. But when the media buzz ends, the fact remains that violent “resistance” remains a cornerstone to the agenda of Hamas - including the kidnapping of Israelis, while Fatah remains committed to staying in power and implementing a peace agreement with Israel.
That said, as Fatah considers absorbing a recognized terrorist group into their government, Israel is momentarily absolved from making any overtures for continuing negotiations - a terrible new blow to any remaining chance at a comprehensive two-state solution.
A tragedy in itself
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki admitted that it was “hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist.” The fact that the recent round of peace talks have gone from matters pertaining to Palestinian prisoner releases and ending the building of settlements to dedicating energy to ensuring all sides recognize the right of Israel to exist is a tragedy in itself.
As Fatah considers absorbing a recognized terrorist group into their government, Israel is momentarily absolved from making any overtures for continuing negotiationsBrooklyn Middleton
Moreover, the potential security ramifications of Fatah engaging Hamas politically are serious; only days ago, reports surfaced that Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) dismantled a Hamas cell over the course of several months in the West Bank City of Qalqilyah. The report indicated at least seven Hamas-affiliated members were accused of plotting bombing and shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and that the attacks were likely to be carried out by Khaled Daoud, an Israeli-Arab citizen. Meanwhile, when the latest flare-up between Israel and Gaza militants was sparked by Israel’s targeted killing of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operative, various resistance factions - chief among them the PIJ - fired approximately 130 rockets at southern Israel. If “various resistance factions” sounds nebulous, it’s because it is; Hamas was relatively quiet during the 48-hour flare up that ended when Egypt negotiated a truce. That said, in a remarkable interview with Al Monitor, PIJ leader Ramadan Abdullah Shalah indicated that the rocket attacks were coordinated with Hamas and that, “whoever says there's no coordination knows nothing.”
Even if Shalah’s confirmation of coordination with Hamas to attack Israel is a fabrication, the fact remains that the militant group has a solid rocket arsenal and Hamas demonstrated either the lack of will or the ability to prevent the attacks - either reason is problematic. It is unlikely Hamas will be able to prevent the PIJ from sabotaging its attempts at unifying with Fatah, a plan that the militant group will likely perceive as an ultimate betrayal. And the likeliest method of sabotage by the PIJ will be to carry out attacks targeting Israel.
While it remains unlikely that renewed Fatah-Hamas efforts to reconcile will actually manifest in a unified government, the desperation on both sides has led the groups to attempt to work closer together and in the process has further compromised any remote chance of salvaging recent U.S. led Palestine-Israel peace talks.
Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst reporting from Israel. Her work has appeared in Turkish and Israeli publications including The Times of Israel and Hürriyet Daily News. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as the emerging geopolitical threats Israel faces as it pursues its energy interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. She is currently researching Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant groups to complete her MA in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.
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