Now What? How Israel Should Respond to Palestinian Unity

By Sophie Taylor

In light of the recent upheaval in the Middle East, Moment’s Niv Elis spoke to 16 experts on what the changes mean for Israel and how it should move forward in light of those changes. While the range of thinkers expounded upon many different scenarios, none could predict what happened next; today, the opposing Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas met in Cairo and proclaimed a unity deal, complicating peace efforts for Israel and the United States.

Here are what a few of the thinkers in our roundup have had to say about the newest development:

Aaron David Miller, who argued in Moment that Israel lacks a coherent strategy in the face of dramatic change, writes in Business Week:

 “This peace at home will guarantee greater political conflict with both Israel and the U.S. and, if Palestinians aren’t careful, tensions with the broader international community. One thing is clear: An already mortally wounded peace process is, for now, dead.”  He also notes that “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gains some maneuvering room. After all, how can anyone criticize Israel for not wanting to deal with a Palestinian Authority that has Hamas in it? U.S. President Barack Obama’s hopes to revive the peace process—never terribly realistic—will become dimmer still.”

Daniel Levy, who encourages Israel to make clear its desire to for a sovereign Palestinian state in our roundup, now tells the Guardian:

“Palestinian division, playing so-called ‘moderates’ against ‘extremists’, had been a cornerstone of US (and Israeli) policy. If the Palestinian unity deal holds – and caution is well-advised with the details yet to be agreed, and with a history of false dawns – that cornerstone will be no more.”  Yet, “this time, Fatah’s move appears to be a more calculated and profound break with past practice—and the anticipated opprobrium of the US seems to weigh less heavily.”

Meir Javedanfar, who thinks new developments in the Middle East provide an opening for Israel in its rivalry with Iran, tells the Christian Science Monitor:

“The PLO-Hamas rapprochement will be a boost for Netanyahu—albeit in the short term. He can say that [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas is now in with a group that doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist…Israel is going to be forced to show compromises due to the higher credibility which the international community seems to be giving to the Palestinian side, especially the PLO under Abbas.”

M.J. Rosenberg, who says that Israel should work to negotiate with the Arab League Initiative, rather than just Palestine, writes for Political Correction:

“In fact, the [U.S.] administration’s demand that Hamas recognize Israel in advance of any negotiations with Israel could well ensure that there won’t be any. So could our demand that it accept all previous agreements negotiated by the Palestinian Authority.”  In that view, “There is only one demand we should make of Hamas, that it cease all acts of violence.  Hamas has, in fact, lived up to that commitment during various cease-fire periods with Israel. In partnership with Fatah, it would likely do so again.  In any case, a mutual cease-fire is a reasonable demand, one that would facilitate negotiations. But the people issuing demands in Jerusalem and in Congress seem to have no interest in negotiating. Their goal is delivering for Israel which, of course, is a way of delivering for their campaigns.”

We don’t yet know how long the unified Palestinian government will last or what it will mean for Israel, but check out our article “What Is Israel’s Next Move In The New Middle East?” for fascinating insights as to what Israel’s top priorities should be.

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