A Historic Shift toward Palestinian Unity? - 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.