You may know by now that Fatah and Hamas have brokered a deal that would create an interim unity government, with elections to follow within a year. Previous agreements in the past have not held together, but this one has been forged from the Arab uprising, on several counts. One, both sides stressed the need for unity in the struggle for Palestinian independence, as only unified movements with clear demands can force change from the bottom up. And second, the factions may have wanted to stay ahead of their own people, unifying to keep their hold on Palestinian politics in the face of their own uprising. So there are competing forces.
The fact that post-Mubarak Egypt brokered this deal seems very crucial to me. Egypt remains a very powerful force in the Arab world, and the fears that they would lose their stature or significance were unfounded. In fact, it has grown.
If you thought this would make a peace deal easier in the short term, you were mistaken. Israel quickly rejected the unity government because of the presence of Hamas, a faction which has not yet recognized their right to exist. The US largely backed them up.
The foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman warned that Israel would not negotiate with the new unity government.
The US also responded coolly, saying the government that resulted must recognise Israel and renounce violence [...]
“It needs to be clear that such an agreement crosses a red line,” Mr Lieberman told Israeli military radio on Thursday.
“The significance of the agreement is that… hundreds of terrorists will flood the West Bank and therefore we need to prepare for a different situation,” he added.
Lieberman is a crook who shouldn’t be listened to. But this seems to be the party line. However, the idea that there were any peace talks worth salvaging is pretty dubious. This group of Israeli leaders simply don’t want peace, so Palestinian unity has no bearing on those negotiations. Over the long-term, it wouldn’t be possible to sign any agreement with Palestine without a unified government, so this is a positive deal for the welfare of the Palestinians in my view. And it sets up well for the application for Palestinian statehood expected at the United Nations General Assembly this year.
The political split between the West Bank and Gaza played into the hands of those who wanted to continue to repress the Palestinians. Now, if and when the West invokes sanctions on Palestine, it will have to be on all their people in the occupied territories. And ultimately, this is a by-product of serious change in the Arab world, change that we should embrace and not fear.