The recent “Unity Agreement” between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas that was signed in Egypt is a harbinger of increased attacks on Israel, both on the diplomatic front and on the actual front lines between Gaza and Israel.
While to most observers, especially in Europe, this agreement is simply an attempt to reconcile the two parties in order to move the cause of “Peace” forward, in reality it is simply a device to advance the cause of Palestinian statehood without requiring the Palestinians to either negotiate with or recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
We are already seeing wishy-washy comments coming out of Israel’s European “allies” like Great Britain and France, where they have started already with the excuses for why it’s alright for Hamas to be included in negotiations with Israel, and handing over $85 million Euros to the PA to replace the tax revenues that Israel has refused to hand over to the PA since those funds would certainly be used, either directly or indirectly, to fund Hamas and its proxies in their efforts to improve their weaponry and their ability to wage war against Israel.
So, what does it all mean, anyway?
There are a few things to consider.
1. Hamas and the PA/PLO/Fatah have a few things in common. They both (in reality) hate the concept of a Jewish state on any land that they want to claim as Palestinian Arab lands (regardless of the fact that Israel exists already). They both want a Palestinian state. They both want money from their supporters such as the US and the European Union. And, they really, really want the Jewish state to just disappear. If it won’t do it all on its own, they’re perfectly willing to help it disappear.
2. Hamas and the PA/PLO/Fatah hate each other. They have been killing, maiming, torturing, and imprisoning each other for a number of years, especially since 2005 when Israel withdrew from Gaza. They cannot play well together, and frankly, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they are back at each others’ throats. Since Hamas took over Gaza, Mahmoud Abbas cannot even set foot there, even though he is ostensibly the president of the PA. Hamas has told him point blank that they cannot guarantee his safety if he dares to come to Gaza, supposedly territory that is part of the PA. Nice, right?
3. Hamas is firmly in a state of almost-war with Israel. They lob a few shells and rockets into Israel every few days, occasionally a major barrage of rockets, but run crying “foul” when Israel retaliates. Israel is NOT in a state of almost-war with the powers that be in the West Bank. The union of these two entities could potentially be interpreted in two ways: Either Hamas is giving up their “war” in favor of negotiations with Israel, or the PA/PLO/Fatah is giving up on negotiations and choosing the path of Hamas. There is no real middle ground, a fact of which Israel is acutely aware.
4. Israel’s position (rightly so, I believe) is that they will not negotiate with Hamas, which is considered by the world to be a terrorist organization. It’s ironic, really, that the world actually recognizes that fact, since the reality is that Hamas enjoys significant, worldwide support not only from countries like Iran, Syria, and Turkey, but now from Egypt and even from France and Britain. The considerable attention lavished in the form of flotillas, exhortations to end the blockade of Gaza, volunteers working tirelessly to end the “oppression” of Gaza by the Israelis, and the efforts of many units of the UN to crush Israel’s ability to defend itself against aggression from Gaza all make it clear that the world really does not consider Hamas to be terrorists, but rather freedom fighters. The fact that they are Islamo-fascist thugs who brutally suppress and oppress their own people is of no import, clearly, as long as they keep the heat on Israel, nor is it important that they are rabid anti-Semites, anti-women’s rights, anti-gay rights, and anti most forms of freedoms that we take for granted in most civilized nations.
Since Israel now considers that Hamas and the PA/PLO/Fatah are now joined, and since Israel is at war with them (by default), their position is that they certainly have no obligation to provide the “union” with funds. It would be like us (the USA) giving Iran money and assistance to help them advance their nuclear weaponry capabilities. Kind of stupid, right?
Yet, world reaction, although muted for the moment, will doubtless return to any lack of negotiations being the fault of Israel and building/expansion of settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem. Already, European leaders are hedging, by giving some “wiggle room” to Hamas to be part of negotiations (even though they claim they’ll never negotiate with Israel) if they agree to the conditions set by the Quartet.
Frankly, I doubt that will ever happen. Long before the parties get to the state where anyone would need to sit down, Hamas and the PA will have “broken up”.
In the meantime, the “peace process” is essentially dead as a doornail. In any event, as I discussed here recently, it really wasn’t a “peace” process so much as a process to get statehood for the Palestinians. There’s nothing in any of what is going on that would lead to true peace. The best Israel can hope for from any negotiations with the PA (eventually) is a truce, since they will most likely NEVER recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and that is the crux of the entire conflict.
So, I mentioned the future.
Here’s what it looks like to me.
I believe there will be no negotiations with Israel (for all the reasons discussed above and ad nauseum), and the Hamas/PA unity government will actually stay together until the fall. At that time, the PA will petition the UN General Assembly for recognition as a country, and will request (read “demand”) membership in the UN. Of course, the GA cannot legally confer statehood upon them. The Security Council has to agree, and it’s likely the US will veto it (I hope). In that case, they will still behave as if they have a state. Unfortunately for them, if that happens, Israel is likely to unilaterally declare a set of “secure” borders. At that point, the dispute over the occupied territories will essentially become a border dispute. Luckily for Israel, it has the superior force AND has possession of those areas it wants to keep, so it will be up to the Palestinians to somehow legally validate their claims, which unfortunately for them, they cannot do since there is no legal precedent for the land to belong to a Palestinian state, and there is ample precedent (and UN resolutions) declaring that Israel has a right to “secure borders”, which does NOT mean the 1948 armistice lines (commonly referred to as “the 1967 borders”).
Israel and Gaza will continue to take potshots at each other, until Israel has had enough, and we’ll see some version of Cast Lead II. The important difference will be that Gaza will be considered by the rest of the world to be part of a Palestinian state, giving Israel that much more “quasi-legal” justification for slamming the hell out of them again.
From my viewpoint, the future does NOT look rosy, particularly if Egypt, as some of their prospective presidents promise, provides armed support to Gaza in the event that Israel attacks Gaza. It could get very ugly, very fast.
Clearly, there is quite a bit more that can be said about this, but, that’s all the time I have today!