Sunday 1 June 2014

How the Palestinian Unity Deal Could Help Israel

On the face of it, the agreement between the rival Palestinian factions to form a unity government is bad news for Israel.  In response, Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately cancelled any possibility of talking about peace talks, and all prospects of reaching any sort of agreement with the Palestinians seem to be lost for the foreseeable future.  The Israeli government has vowed never to hold discussions with Hamas.  The fact that Hamas is effectively being drawn in as part of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the unity government, means that talks with the PA cannot be contemplated.  Hamas could break out of their stronghold in the Gaza Strip, and become much more influential in the West Bank via their participation in the unity government.  This may allow for the expansion of their terror activities into the West Bank, and could provide a new launching pad for the rocket fire that has been prevalent from Gaza over the past few years.  The signs are, however, not all as grim as the above-mentioned picture depicts.  The link-up between Hamas and Fatah could, ironically, bring some benefits to Israel.

As a result of the agreement to form a unity government, Hamas will effectively be drawn into the PA.  In a number of countries around the world, including the USA, Hamas has been outlawed as a terror organisation.  If Hamas is part of the PA, US law will prevent the US government from dealing with the PA and from making financial donations to the PA.  It is well known that the PA has relied heavily upon financial donations made by countries around the world, including the USA.  The unity government is likely to result in less financial donations coming forward  to the Palestinians in general, as a result of Hamas's involvement in the PA.

By linking up with Hamas, an organised which has a much lower level of respect in the international community, Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah organisation can be seen to be showing its true colours.  Abbas has been trying for many years to gain greater international recognition.  Just recently, he made application to a number of UN bodies and international treaties, for the Palestinians to be admitted as full members.  This has caused a stir especially considering that the Palestinians are not an independent state, something that is generally required for admission to these bodies and treaties.  The UN Secretary General will be the one who will have to decide in the case of most of the applications, whether or not to admit the Palestinians as full members.  His decision may be swayed against admitting them, if he will be required to deal with Hamas officials as part of the PA.  This may also reduce the  standing of PA President Mahmoud in the international community, when it is considered that he finds it politically acceptable to link up with a terror organisation as his partner in government.

A new Palestinian unity government with Hamas may also buy time for Prime Minister Netanyahu.  There was a strong view that US Secretary of State John Kerry laid the blame for the failure of the peace talks with Netanyahu.  Now that the Abbas has thrown his lot in with Hamas, the international community may have a lower expectation of Netanyahu in forcing him to be more accommodating in talks with the PA.

The fact that Hamas has decided to come to an arrangement with Fatah and the PA is telling.  Hamas has consistently opposed the idea of negotiating with Israel, and has been highly critical of Mahmoud Abbas for doing so. and for being prepared to recognise Israel's right to exist  Indeed, this has been one of the reasons that Hamas has used for not agreeing to a unity government on previous occasions.  The fact that Hamas has gone back on its principles may be an indication of the weak situation that Hamas finds itself in at the current time.  The friendship that Hamas had with Egypt has evaporated with the overthrow of President Morsi.  Hamas is clearly on the lookout for friends and supporters, and its agreement to enter into a pact with Fatah is a sign of real weakness.

The advantages that the Palestinian unity government (if indeed it ever gets off the ground) will bring to Israel will be short-lived.  There are already signs that US Secretary of State John Kerry is prepared to pander to the unity government, despite Hamas being a terror organisation under US law.  It is clear that the international community will continue to provide support to what is perceived as the underdog, even if this is a terrorist underdog.  Any advantages, however, that  Israel can derive from this situation, even in the short-term, will be welcome.

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