The word “reconciliation” is so distant from the Middle Eastern reality that its use is taken as either a joke or threat. The signing ceremony in Cairo yesterday between Fatah and Hamas is likely to mark a turning point, not only for the concept, but also for the Palestinian and regional situation.
The land mines that threaten to shatter this reconciliation are not buried underground; they are visible. Still, it’s vital to examine whether the rapprochement offers a new opportunity not only for the Palestinians, but also for Israel. The Israeli Foreign Ministry, in contrast to the public positions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, thinks the reconciliation offers Israel a strategic opportunity. A secret ministry report revealed in Haaretz yesterday by Barak Ravid advised the government to view the report as an opportunity and refrain from attacking it.
The reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas depends on a new perception of strategy, born hurriedly in the upheavals that are still taking place in the Middle East. According to this idea, the closing of ranks between the two factions, each controlling a separate Palestinian territory, is the preferred path to achieving international recognition of both a Palestinian state and all elements in the Palestinian leadership.
The Palestinians hope this recognition will advance their liberation from the Israeli occupation after 20 years in which neither they nor their Arab partners have managed to change Israel’s position. Israel, which views the Palestinians’ national aspirations as a strategic threat, has begun an aggressive campaign to destroy the reconciliation, as if a situation in which Hamas quarrels with Fatah provided greater security, or as if Israel had been willing to sign a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority before the two factions reconciled. These two arguments are nothing more than sleight of hand intended to disguise the traditional Israeli view that a union of the two movements is a threat.
The agreement signed yesterday obligates Israel to revisit its positions. Israel cannot and does not have to thwart it. It would also be correct for Israel to recognize the Palestinian unity government in order to conduct a dialogue and neighborly relations with the Palestinian state in the future.
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