The Palestinians Might be Unifying, and Netanyahu Doesn’t Approve
Something is happening in the West Bank and Gaza, something that hasn’t happened since 2007 when Hamas, after a 5-day civil war, forcefully kicked the Palestinian Authority (Fatah) out of the Gaza Strip.
What’s going on, you ask? This: the Palestinians are trying to unify, to bridge the large social and political rifts that were created in 2007. Or, more accurately, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is attempting to reconcile with Hamas, having met with representatives from the organization for the first time in over a year this past weekend.
Netanyahu, in a public admonishment of Abbas, clearly demonstrated that and he does not like the idea of reconciliation one bit. (Netanyahu, directing comments towards Abbas, said, “You can’t have peace with both Israel and Hamas.”)
Why would Netanyahu be testy about what’s happening? Let’s start with the obvious: Hamas is a known terror organization which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. That, in and of itself, is enough of a reason, some would argue, for Netanyahu to refuse dialogue with Abbas if he recognizes Hamas as a legitimate partner.
But something else is at play here, for Netanyahu’s government, despite public stances, has secretly negotiated with Hamas in the past, particularly with regard to Gilad Shalit.
So what is the real issue?
In my view, it’s this: Netanyahu has been counting on Palestinian disunity. He has been counting on it in the face of a pending September United Nations meeting in which Abbas plans to unilaterally declare statehood if nothing significant is resolved with Israel before then.
Netanyahu has known that, without an agreement between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah (the Palestinian Authority), a unilateral declaration of statehood by Abbas will mean nothing to Hamas. Thus, such a declaration would be futile, and perhaps even destructive for Palestinian chances at unity.
However, now that it appears the Palestinians may be trying to reconcile, the September UN date is looming a bit larger.
And Netanyahu appears to be none too pleased.
Could Palestinian unity – if a real reconciliation actually happens – force Netanyahu to get serious about dialogue with the Palestinians, about reaching some type of final status agreement before the world recognizes a unilaterally-declared Palestinian state?
The chances are slim. But in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, slim chances are better than none at all.