Friday, April 29, 2011
Why Palestinian Unity Won't Lead to Peace
These concerns come on top of other serious European reservations. For example, the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, also known as Oslo II, clearly established: "Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the Permanent Status negotiations." The EU signed Oslo II as a witness. If the EU supports the Palestinian initiative at the U.N., it will be violating a core commitment of the peace process, which is that the territories' fate should be determined only by direct negotiations between the parties. The problems with including Hamas don't stop there. Abbas's hope is that a General Assembly resolution will reference the pre-1967 boundaries, which have assumed almost holy status among Palestinians. (Never mind that these were only armistice lines from the 1948 war, and were not regarded as final political borders.) In Jerusalem, the pre-1967 line will put the entire Old City, with its holy sites, like the Western Wall, under Palestinian control. Israelis will not agree to such a division of their capital in any case, but will European governments risk putting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre under a regime even partly controlled by Hamas? They know that many members of Gaza's small Christian community have been seeking refuge abroad in order to flee Hamas rule.
The last time Abbas co-governed with Hamas was after the Palestinian legislative elections in early 2006, which Hamas won. By June 2007, their power-sharing arrangements broke down and Hamas overthrew Abbas's forces in the Gaza Strip. Israel is concerned that, in the aftermath of their new agreement, Hamas will try to exploit Abbas's weakness and take over the West Bank as well. If, under the agreement, the Palestinian Authority releases Hamas operatives from its prisons in the West Bank and at the same time calls off security sweeps against Hamas, the terrorist group's power in the field will undoubtedly rise. And what will happen to the Palestinian security forces that were trained by the United States and Jordan and have been acclaimed in the West in recent years?
Abbas needs to choose his priority: working with Hamas, or working with Israel. Faced with the departure of his old regional ally, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas's parent organization, Abbas appears to be recalculating his interests. He must also make a final decision about how to proceed in dealing with his differences with Israel -- through unilateral action that seeks to mobilize support at the United Nations, or by sitting down and negotiating with Israel, as past agreements require.
The pathway to peace is open. But by reaching out to Hamas, Abbas has plainly moved even further away from it.