The manner in which the world, and in particular the Quartet, responds to the emerging Hamas-Fatah reconciliation will be of prime importance in dictating whether the Middle East will move within the next few months from a situation of no peace to one of all-out war.
If Hamas is allowed by the international community to integrate into the Palestinian Authority without being made to renounce its armed campaigns and without being obliged to recognise Israel’s existence, the already terminally ill peace process will come to a very rapid demise. Not only will Israel not negotiate with a Palestinian government which contains terrorist elements, but the terms of the Roadmap, which up to now have formed the foundations of negotiations, will become devoid of any further relevance.
That, of course, would suit Hamas perfectly; it has done all in its power to scupper the peace process for many years and by its very definition rejects all negotiations intended to lead to a two-state solution. However, it also suits Fatah which, despite dodging the negotiating table with considerable alacrity since negotiations resumed last autumn, received a serious blow to its already bruised credibility on the Palestinian street with the release of the leaked ‘Palestine Papers’ and is increasingly threatened by internal discord.
If Fatah ever really did intend the peace negotiations to be more than lip-service to its cheque-writing patrons in the international community (and the rejection of the 2008 Olmert offer would suggest very strongly that it had no such intentions), its weakness means that it is currently unable to pursue anything other than the rejectionist stance as represented not only by Hamas, but by a considerable proportion of the Palestinian elite and in particular, those living outside the region.
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