UPDATES 7 pm Israel time, Wednesday, April 23 2014:
For the last 10 minutes, incoming rocket sirens have been blaring throughout the communities on the Gaza border. The residents of Sderot, the Sha’ar Hanegev regional council, and the Chof Ashkelon regional council are all hunkered down in their bomb shelters at this moment.
So Fatah and Hamas have reconciled . . . again.
The last time was in 2011 when an Egyptian sponsored reconciliation almost immediately fell apart over how to share power.
This time around–similar to last time–the plan calls for a unity government made up of “technocrats” to be formed within 5 weeks, to be followed by “national” elections which will be held 6 months after a “vote of confidence” of the Palestinian parliament. In fact, this “six months after” call for national elections pushes Palestinian elections out into the indefinite future.
That such a reconciliation will ever actually take place is problematical at best.
Even Palestinian commentators have spent the day spreading doubt as to whether anything will come out of this agreement. As political scientist Hani Al-Masri commented: “Reconciliation and negotiations with Israel are now tactics. Each side has its own calculations and reconciliation has little substance on the ground. It could derail at any moment.”
On the face of things, Mahmoud Abbas, in particular, has more to lose than Hamas. His is a government propped up by the security cooperation between the PLO police and Israel–a security cooperation that has as its main goal the elimination of Hamas threats to Abbas in Areas A and B of Judea and Samaria. Hamas undoubtedly sees reconciliation as a way to undermine this cooperation and to thus gain power in the territory under PLO Administration.
In doing so, Hamas hopes it can a bring an end to Fatah in Judea and Samaria the same way that it brought an end to Fatah in Gaza. More than this, Hamas stands to gain an easing of its isolation and an ending of the so-called “peace process.”
Which brings us back to Mahmoud Abbas. What does he possibly have to gain from such a reconciliation? Abbas surely realizes that by beginning to embrace Hamas, he can focus attention on himself as the Americans and Europeans will initially entreat him not to carry through with the reconciliation. And how will they encourage him not to go through with the rapprochement? By trying to wring more concessions out of Israel.
But the bottom line here is that Abbas is clearly doing his best to bring an end to the Kerry “peace process”. Just as he forlornly hoped that the PLO’s application to 15 international organizations would bring the “peace” process to an end, Abbas must fervently desire that a reconciliation with Hamas will be the nail in its coffin.
No Netanyahu government can make a peace agreement with an organization (Hamas) even more dedicated to its destruction than the PLO (if that is possible).
So what can we expect in the next few days?
1. The Israeli “Left” will begin a campaign to say that Hamas is really not so bad after all.
2. The Americans and Europeans–even while suggesting that Fatah/Hamas reconciliation should not proceed–will continue to blame Israel for trying to scuttle the “peace process”. In short order, they too will join the “Hamas is really not so bad after all” campaign.
3. John Kerry will make another intense effort to restart “negotiations” even as the “peace process” continues to fall apart.