Palestinian Unity is Gaining Momentum
According to Haaretz, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will soon meet with Egyptian military leaders about a possible reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
This comes after delegations from both Hamas and the PA met last week with representatives from the Arab League and Egypt’s military about ending the three-year feud between the ruling factions in Gaza and the West Bank.
These developments should signal to both Washington and Netanyahu that Abbas’ push for Palestinian unity is serious, and needs to be taken seriously. According to both Haaretz and MENA, the Egyptian state news agency:
Abbas will hold “important talks” with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
The Palestinians’ push for statehood in the past several years has been complicated, if not partially scuttled, by a lack of unity on the Palestinian side. Given that such a state would comprise land in both the West Bank and Gaza, the rift between Hamas and the PA has been politically debilitating.
Now, with a September U.N. date to discuss a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians coupled with the potential for real, Palestinian unity being thrown behind such a declaration, the question is how both Israel and the United States will respond.
Hamas is viewed by the United States as a terror organization, and it has pledged in the past that it would withhold all funding from the PA if it were to recognize Hamas as a legitimate partner. However, behind the scenes, the U.S. has also known that no final-status agreement on a Palestinian state could be reached without agreement from Hamas, the controlling faction in Gaza. So the question for the U.S., for President Obama and Secretary Clinton, is this: if the Palestinians reconcile, will the United States really be willing to stop investing political and monetary capital in the formation of two states?
For Netanyahu and Israel, the question is this: will the government maintain its stubborn stance by refusing to deal with Hamas? Or will Netanyahu see the writing on the wall, notice the clock ticking toward September, and decide to take action before the possibility of a unilateral declaration of statehood?
As I’ve noted previously, Netanyahu has relied heavily on a lack of unity on the Palestinian side. In fact, it’s the one element that has most allowed him to invest so lightly in peace talks, for without unity on the Palestinian side, there was never going to be a chance for the formation of a Palestinian state in both territories, no matter what agreement was reached with Abbas and the PA.
The clock is running out on Netanyahu and Israel to find some type of mutually-agreed upon settlement with Abbas. Mere months remain.
Perhaps the momentum being seen on the Palestinian side can compel Netanyahu to get down from his perch and act decisively, compel him to move a chair back to the bargaining table and get this done, once and for all.