Hamas, Palestinian Authority meet in Cairo to form unity government

posted at 1:00 pm on February 22, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Good news, or disaster?  Perhaps the venue will give us a hint:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday began a three-day visit to Cairo where he is scheduled to hold talks with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and representatives of several Palestinian groups on the formation of a Palestinian unity government and the implementation of the Qatar-brokered reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas. …

On the eve of the Abbas-Mashaal meeting, Hamas announced that its leaders have agreed to end their differences over the Qatari-brokered reconciliation pact.

Hamas’s “political bureau” announced following a meeting in the Egyptian capital its support for the reconciliation accord, Ezat Risheq, a senior Hamas official, said.

On the good news side, this gives the Israelis one entity with which to negotiate on a peace settlement.  The armed wing of Hamas is reportedly unhappy with the deal, especially since it means that Abbas becomes the Prime Minister of the united Palestinian Authority.  If the armed wing of Hamas is unhappy, then the conventional wisdom would be that Israel should be happy, or at least not unhappy.

However, the one piece of good news — having one entity as a negotiating partner — only matters if the negotiating partner is serious about peace.  There has been no indication that Hamas will ever accept a two-state solution under any circumstances, even if Abbas as leader of Fatah paid lip service to the notion.   Indeed, the leaders in Cairo endorsed the deal with the proviso that the pact exists “accurately and faithfully on the basis of preserving the legitimate rights of the Palestinians and the resistance in driving the occupation away from Palestine.”  That is not even code for armed struggle for destroying Israel; it’s almost explicit if one understands that “occupation” in Palestinian communiqués always refers to Israel.

Unity brings other issues to the forefront.  When Hamas has attacked Israel with rockets or kidnaping excursions from Gaza, Israel could separate that from their relationship with the West Bank.  In a unity government, that will no longer be possible.  Will Abbas put an end to rocket attacks on Sderot and Ashkelon from Gaza, and an end to ambushes of Israeli soldiers?  If not, any potential conflict from those provocations could easily engulf the West Bank as well as Gaza.  Unless Hamas has agreed to end its terrorism, Abbas just signed up the entire PA as the responsible party in the next conflict.

So has Hamas agreed to diplomacy and negotiation with Israel?  Having their conference hosted in Cairo, at the center of power for the Muslim Brotherhood, does not hint in that direction.


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