Chance of Peace Receding as Fatah, Hamas Reconcile

Now that Fatah and Hamas have reconciled, Abu Mazen is in effect retracting his previous rejection of terrorism. It is a heavy price to pay for his new garment, and it deals a heavy blow to the peace process.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on May 3, 2011.)

Ever since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip four years ago, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen ) has been parading, not naked, but half-clothed. At best, he could speak only for the Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria. For the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip spoke the Hamas leadership.

But nobody seemed to notice, or they acted as if they did not notice. In world capitals and at the United Nations he was greeted as the representative of the Palestinian people. For Israeli governments – under Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu – he was the negotiating partner for reaching an agreement with the Palestinians. Since Barack Obama was elected U.S. president, Israel has been pressured to make concessions to him.

The line taken by the United States was followed by most of the countries of Western Europe. Also, the Israeli parliamentary opposition under the leadership of Tzipi Livni has for the past two years castigated Netanyahu for not agreeing to Abu Mazen’s demands. The entire Israeli “peace camp” supported that position.

Yet everyone knew that with Hamas ruling Gaza, Abu Mazen may have been in a position to make demands of Israel, but he was in no position to make concessions in the name of the Palestinians, to commit himself to an agreement in the name of the Palestinians, or to implement any agreement he might sign. Anyone who occasionally pointed this out was considered someone who was simply looking for excuses for not meeting Abu Mazen’s demands, or for not coming out with a “courageous” Israeli initiative that would involve Israeli concessions to Abu Mazen.

But Abu Mazen knew. That explains why he, despite U.S. pressure, stubbornly refused to engage in direct negotiations with Netanyahu. And that explains why he decided to bypass negotiations with Israel and reach out to the United Nations with a request that it recognize a nonexistent Palestinian state within “the 1967 borders.” These “borders,” as he well knows, are nothing but the lines agreed to between Israel and Jordan in the April 1949 armistice agreement, an agreement that was subsequently violated by Jordan.

And Palestinians in Ramallah and Gaza knew that Abu Mazen was half-naked, and some of them have been demonstrating recently, calling for unity between Fatah and Hamas. Those who seek the establishment of a Palestinian state know they need a Palestinian leadership that represents all, not just half the Palestinians. So they called out: This emperor is not fully clothed!

The weakened regime of Bashar Assad in Syria and the friendly attitude to Hamas by the new Egyptian military regime did the rest. Abu Mazen signed an agreement with Hamas, and now, fully clothed, dressed in the mantle of unity, he feels he can speak for the whole Palestinian people. But watch out – that new Hamas garment he has wrapped around himself has terror written all over it.

Operation Defensive Shield routed the terrorists in Judea and Samaria. But it did a great deal more – it convinced Abu Mazen and his associates that the Palestinians would gain nothing by the use of violence. Here again the Israel Defense Forces made a great contribution to the peace process. It is by now generally recognized that there can be no progress toward peace as long as Palestinian terrorists continue to kill Israeli civilians.

Abu Mazen, who in the past supported terrorist actions, came to accept that, and a necessary condition for moving the peace process with the Palestinians forward was met. But Hamas never accepted it. Not recognizing Israel, and not striving for peace with Israel, they continue to carry out rocket terror attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians. And it was only the presence of the IDF in Judea and Samaria that has prevented Hamas terror attacks from Judea and Samaria.

Now that Fatah and Hamas have reconciled, Abu Mazen is in effect retracting his previous rejection of terrorism. It is a heavy price to pay for his new garment, and it deals a heavy blow to the peace process. The Israeli “peace camp,” which seems to be jubilant about the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, will shortly learn that the peace that all of us seek is now receding.

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