A seven-year rift has come to an end with the signing of the Hamas-Fatah agreement. The reconciliation between the two sides went through a process that travelled through Cairo and Doha but ultimately culminated on the soil of Gaza, governed by Hamas.
The idea is to form a national unity government within a period of five weeks and then prepare for the Palestinian elections.
This reconciliation will actually be good for the almost defunct Israel-Palestinian peace process. This is based on the Oslo Accords, which had envisaged a ‘land for peace’ deal. Israel would (incrementally) hand over territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the Palestinians, who would, in return, eschew all violence against Israel and pursue peace instead. But the accords were violated by both sides almost as soon as they were signed.
Nevertheless, the accords, in fits and starts, have ushered in perceptible changes, primary among them — the return of the PLO to the territories, the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. The current reconciliation between the two Palestinian factions, therefore, may open up a window of opportunity to deliver Oslo.
For one, Hamas itself is a weakened or weakening force. It has lost some of its main support bases in Syria, Hezbollah and Iran (when it sided with the rebels). It stands alienated by Saudi Arabia, virulently opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Hamas drew its ideological and spiritual succour and other Gulf countries, which were its main funders. Egypt has closed its borders with Gaza. That is why Hamas has had to turn to Fatah.
But the fact is that no Arab government will be happy to have Hamas in power and any government that includes Hamas will have to radically shift its position from that oft-stated by Hamas.
Any deal the Palestinians conclude with Israel with the endorsement of Hamas is expected to hold. Earlier ceasefires Hamas has entered into with Israel prove this.
So while the importance of this reconciliation cannot be overstressed for the Palestinians, it is equally significant for Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, instead of calling off negotiations, should seize the moment and make history. Time is ticking away for the two-State solution and the one-State solution that many Palestinians’ now espouse, heralds the end of Israel’s character as a Jewish State.
For the Palestinians sovereignty over the West Bank is long overdue. Surrounded as Israel currently is with failed states, peace with the Palestinians can only bode well for it.
Aditi Bhaduri is an independent journalist. The views expressed by the author are personal.