A Historic Shift toward Palestinian Unity?

(Foreign Policy) Aaron David Miller - Tens of thousands of Palestinians rally in Hamas-controlled Gaza to celebrate the anniversary of Fatah's founding. Thousands more in the Fatah-controlled West Bank cheer on Hamas. Could we be witnessing a historic shift toward Palestinian unity? Not likely. Beginning with the 2000 intifada, Fatah began to split and smaller offshoots like the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and Islamists began to run their own operations. Arafat's death in 2004, the corruption in Fatah, and the rising power of Hamas made a mockery of the idea of a unified Palestinian national movement. Since Hamas' 2007 takeover of Gaza, there have been at least four unsuccessful efforts to restore Palestinian unity, but neither Hamas nor Fatah is really serious about doing so - even while all Palestinians say they desperately want them to succeed. Neither side has any real desire to pay the price for what a real merger would entail. Hamas isn't going to give up the gun and recognize Israel - and Abbas knows that his international support will evaporate if he signs on to a hard-line program. There is no real consensus, and given Hamas' own timeline, no urgency to produce one. And now with friendly Islamists rising in the Arab world, there's less of a rush. Bringing Hamas into the PLO or a unity government with its current positions intact will compel the U.S. to cut aid to the PA, make it impossible to get negotiations with Israel launched. John Kerry, who really does believe in diplomacy, will want to do something serious on the Israeli-Palestinian issue because he believes it's important, because others will urge him to, and because that's what secretaries of state are supposed to do. He won't open up a dialogue with Hamas, but he'll likely start talking to the Turks, Egyptians, and Qataris (all led by Islamists with influence in Gaza) about ways to influence Hamas. The writer is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

2013-01-10 00:00:00

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