Reconciliation and Negotiations

Some say,

Israel can’t have it both ways! It cannot say that it should not negotiate with Pres. Abbas because he doesn’t have legitimacy since there haven’t been elections and he doesn’t govern Gaza, while also saying that Israel should not negotiate with a Palestinian Authority reconciled with Hamas.

Of course, they must! This argument is fallacious and outrageously so. The very concept that the Palestinian leadership’s reconciliation with Hamas should have no impact on ongoing cooperation, much less negotiations, is ridiculous. Of course, it must! In fact, until details of the reconciliation’s impact are understood, and here I’m not talking about on paper but on the ground over time, negotiations cannot possibly proceed much less succeed. To argue that Israel should not in the very least suspend negotiations, if not outright cancel existing agreements because of this, is illogical.

That said, that the Palestinian leadership needed to settle some issues before proceeding with negotiations makes obvious sense.

Currently, President Abbas is in the Ninth Year of a Four Year elected term as President. His government currently does not control and has little influence over a significant portion of the population and territory (Gazans and Gaza) who have been actively hostile to it, much less to Israel. Gershon Baskin raised dozens of questions whose answers are vital to understand fully at this point. Here are just a few of them which he posted on Twitter @GershonBaskin:

  • Who’s ideology is it that they unify under?
  • Will Hamas Ezzedin al Qassam troops merge into the PA security forces or the opposite?
  • Will PA security forces continue security coordination with Israel as part of a joint government?
  • Will Hamas give up its control of the Gaza side of the Erez crossing?
  • Will women in Gaza be allowed to dress as they like or will the Hamas police still harass women in Gaza?
  • If there are new Palestinian elections, which is badly needed, will the winner take all?
  • Will both sides respect the outcome of elections?
  • Will the PA release Hamas prisoners in the West Bank, will Hamas release Fatah prisoners in Gaza?
  • Will the EU and the US continue to provide financial support to Palestine?
  • Will all of the 133 countries which have recognized the State of Palestine recognize it with a joint government with Hamas?
  • If there is a joint PLO-Hamas government and Hamas abducts another Israeli soldier will the PA stand behind it or reject it?
  • If there is a joint PLO-Hamas government and rockets continue to be shot at Israel from Gaza, who will be held responsible?
  • With a new unity government, will Egypt re-open the Rafah border?
  • Hamas clergy regularly preach against Jews and Christians, what sayeth you Palestinian Christians about the unity?
  • Hamas has said that it will never recognize Israel, does the PLO withdraw its recognition of Israel granted by President Arafat?
  • Hamas Covenant: The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of Moslem Brotherhood in Palestine
  • Hamas Covenant: The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews)
  • Initiatives, & so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of Hamas
  • Hamas: In face of the Jews’ usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised.
  • Will Egypt forget that Hamas-the MB – is still part of the government?

Anyone think that these questions are irrelevant for ongoing Israeli-Palestinian cooperative ventures, much less for peace negotiations? And more importantly, they need to be answered by overseen actions, not by words. To put it bluntly, these questions are too important to be brushed off with platitudes about how things should work or by any written agreement between Hamas and Fatah. The answers must be proven with actions and that will take time. In essence, this reconciliation agreement, should it actually move forward, will necessarily halt peace negotiations for a substantial time.

Of course, the US and EU might insist that the sides sit opposite one another at the table and pretend to negotiate, but the actual discussions will be halted because there is no choice but to do so. If they officially are not halted, it will not matter in practice. There will be no real negotiating going on because there cannot be until the major new questions are resolved and that will take months and possibly a year or more after elections to see how things sort out.

This isn’t a minor issue to be cast aside by those advocating for progress in peace negotiations. It is a sea change in the nature of the Palestinian side. That has broad long term consequences that dramatically affect Israel’s relations with the Palestinians and Palestinian relations with other nations. All of that has an equally dramatic impact on what may possibly happen during and after negotiations.

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