Why Netanyahu is wrong about Fatah-Hamas unity
“You can either have peace with Hamas or peace with Israel,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a public statement Monday, hours after Abbas signed an agreement to form an interim government with Hamas ahead of Palestinian elections. The ultimatum, however, is fundamentally flawed; even if peace with Israel was around the corner, it would not be possible for the Palestinian president to reach a deal with Israel before mending ties with Hamas.
The only solution to the conflict currently on the table – although many others are lurking in the background – is the two-state solution, which by definition necessitates one unified Palestinian leadership. The goal of the two-state framework is the establishment of the State of Palestine, not two separate states in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
But there are other more important issues involved. Mahmoud Abbas is not Yasser Arafat. Abbas’s credibility on the Palestinian street has been consistently waning. Currently entering the seventh year of a four-year term as Palestinian Authority president, he lacks the authority, democratic or otherwise, to make concessions to Israel.
Secondly, the Arab Spring has moved into its second year; newly installed regimes are being tested for their commitment to the democratic ideas that galvanized entire nations to oust dictators, and tyrannical holdouts are slowly being forced out one by one. In these circumstances, neither Fatah nor Hamas can afford to further delay the long-overdue Palestinian elections. The Palestinian people have for some time been demanding democratic governance that reflects their will and the will of their national struggle for independence.
Lastly, even if a referendum is not ultimately necessary to implement a peace deal, in order for any such deal to hold even a modicum of legitimacy, it must be achieved by a democratically elected leader.
Under these circumstances, one could reasonably speculate that Netanyahu’s ultimatum to Abbas reflects the current Israeli government’s complete lack of interest in reaching a two-state solution. By arguing that Abbas’s government in the West Bank is the only party he is willing to make peace with, Netanyahu is saying one of two things: Either he believes the Israeli army can eradicate the Hamas movement with military means, a strategy that has failed for two decades, or he would rather perpetuate the status quo, in which the occupation continues, enabled by a somewhat autonomous, largely cooperative and mostly impotent Palestinian leadership.