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Fatah and Hamas Reconcile

Hamas and Fatah, which have been in a battle for the soul of the Palestinian national movement ever since Hamas forcibly evicted Fatah from Gaza and took over the Strip in 2007, have kissed and made up, or so they say. Officials from the two groups met in Cairo and emerged all smiles, going so far as to state that “all points of differences have been overcome.”

If that is true, it’s very big news. It would mean one of two very different things: either Hamas has agreed to recognize the state of Israel, cease all violence against Israel, and be satisfied with a two-state solution; or Fatah has decided it no longer recognizes the state of Israel, now endorses violence against Israel, and will no longer be satisfied with anything other than the complete conquest of all Israel. There is no happy medium between two states and a total Palestinian conquest of Israel; it’s one or the other.

Odds are strongly in favor of Fatah’s capitulation to Hamas rather than the other way around, but no one is clarifying this, at least not yet. All we know right now is that they want to build a government together, to consist rather mysteriously of “independent” “nationalist” figures — they probably won’t be putting hardcore Hamasniks on the ticket at the outset, but will use the tactic the Muslim Brotherhood used in Egypt for years of running extremists as independents. The two factions plan to hold an election in eight months or so.

The election talk already has them swooning at the UN and in Europe — the Arab Spring has reached the Palestinians! — but hold on there, partner. There’s another item that ought to give one pause, if one seriously envisions peace with Israel emerging from this reconciliation. Hamas and Fatah have agreed to meld their security apparatuses.

That might seem part and parcel with an accord, but in the absence of any statement by Hamas that they are renouncing violence and favor peace with Israel, the decision by Abbas to fuse his security force with that of Hamas seems tantamount to an abandonment by Fatah of the peace process with Israel. Abbas claims he’s as keen as ever to forge a two-state solution, but that simply doesn’t jibe with an agreement of security cooperation with an entity still formally dedicated to the total destruction of the alleged peace partner.

Bibi has said, simply and correctly, that Fatah can have peace with Israel or Hamas, but not both. Abbas undoubtedly knows this. This reconciliation move appears calculated to add oomph to the push for unilateral Palestinian statehood that will come before the UN General Assembly in September — a move that in and of itself demonstrates Fatah’s abandonment of the peace process with Israel, since it will force terms on Israel and deny Israel the opportunity to defend her own territory or interests at the negotiating table. Abbas seems to have made his choice pretty clear, I’d say. What remains to be seen is whether the Americans, who have pledged not to support or underwrite any agreement of which Hamas is a part, stick to that position or wriggle out of it for the sake of giving Obama a peace treaty.

I personally think this reconciliation is great news. The more Abbas reveals the reality of Fatah’s aspirations, the better. If he wants what Hamas wants — and it appears he does — it is as well that he shout it loud and proud. Shoving a statehood declaration down Israel’s throat at the UN and allying with Hamas make his position quite clear. Obfuscations will abound, and he will continue to talk about peace and obstructionist Israelis, but he’s thrown the Oslo Accords out the window. Now we can all face facts.