So, Fatah and Hamas are going to end four years of bitter wrangling, kiss and make up. Are they, indeed. Smoke and mirrors again.
Hamas’s refusal to allow Fatah to regain a foothold in the Gaza Strip and Fatah’s refusal to allow Hamas to reciprocate in the West Bank are two of the main obstacles to genuine reconciliation. The signing of the ‘agreement’ creates a façade of unity but it is unclear how they will implement the agreement on the ground. The subtext is, of course, statehood and the unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence. Both sides believe that once this Holy Grail has been achieved, they will be able to exert more and more political and even military leverage on a fragmented Israeli state, and the belief that it should be achieved at any cost may well prolong the deadlock. A senior Hamas leader said in Cairo ‘we are prepared to pay any price for reconciliation’. Except, perhaps, the recognition of the state of Israel, which would effectively remove Hamas’ raison d’etre. Tax dollars were withheld by Israel since if a joint Hamas- Fatah account were to be created, transfer of funds to a terrorist organisation dedicated to Israel’s overthrow would be suicidal and spectacularly stupid. Israel would therefore need assurances from the PA that its funds would not be funnelled in some fashion to Hamas, in other words a measure of trust, which will be a very long time coming. Calls for a third Intifada are numerous on Facebook and the Israelis are well aware of the potential momentum which could be generated. Yet, Israel has its home-grown radicals. Any significant attempt to give away East Jerusalem as a capital for Palestine would meet with violent resistance. Israel need a safe pair of hands at this moment and steps should be taken to build bridges with Israeli Arabs – of whom there are a surprising number – who would much prefer to be governed by Israel rather than Gaza and hence, by proxy, Damascus.