In what amounts to strange timing, Palestinian enemies and rivals, Fatah and Hamas, have agreed to put their violent pasts behind them, for now and have agreed to form a unity government. While peace negotiations have not been going well, this announcement all but kills the current talks. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was “disappointed” by the announcement and warned it could seriously complicate peace efforts. “It’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist,” she added.
President Mahmoud Abbas in a statement said that the forming of a unity government is an internal matter and should not negatively impact the current negotiations. Specifically, Mr Abbas said there was “no incompatibility between reconciliation and the talks” and that they were still committed to peace and a two-state solution. The only problem is that Hamas will never accept the right of Israel to exist even if she were to withdraw all the way back to the 1967 borders. The goal of Hamas is to destroy Israel or at least to drive her out of the Middle East and that is not a starting point for negotiations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Mr Abbas would have to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas, “You can have one but not the other. I hope he chooses peace; so far he hasn’t done so.” So effectively, this announcement has killed any hope of progress and has in fact set the process back years or killed it altogether.
This is not bad news for the US Government because now Secretary of State John Kerry can say we were moving in the right direction but this reunification has halted our progress. Of course it isn’t true but it allows the U.S. to say that at least we tried and the failure was not ours. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union and therefore not a partner for peace. The only hope for any peace process is for Mr Abbas to somehow convince Ismail Haniya, prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a precondition for restarting the talks and that isn’t going to happen. The peace process is officially dead and perhaps for good.