Monday, 2 June 2014

So, you both agree that 'hummus' is good?

One of my favourite Bruno moments is when he goes to the Middle East to try and solve the Israel-Palestine conflict and manages to get agreement that hummus is good. For your amusement, the clip can be found here. The relevance, albeit tenuous, is the news that Hamas and Fatah have reconciled and are forming a unity government. Personally, I'm not sure how you can have peace talks with an entity that is now backed by an organisation that opposes them - ignoring the added complication of that organisation being a terrorist organisation sworn to Israel's destruction. I am also confused as to how Abbas can claim any commitment to peace if he is seeking unity deals with such organisations.

There are some positives:

1. If (a huge huge huge if) Hamas commits to peace talks and Israel's right to exist, there may actually be some viability in the peace accords. 

For ages I have thought the peace process was a complete sham - Abbas had absolutely no authority to negotiate on behalf of the Gazans. (He barely has any authority to negotiate on behalf of the West Bank Palestinians considering he is 4 years beyond his term, but let's ignore that.) Considering any peace deal presumably included Gaza as Palestinian territory, this was hugely problematic. Assuming a return to peace talks (a huge assumption, of course), this is no longer a problem and makes a peace deal that little bit more viable.

2. Elections

Fresh elections, long overdue, can only be a good thing.

3. A government including Hamas need not be 'Hamas' inspired. 

In other words, the new government could decide to not oppose peace talks and to not be committed to Israel's destruction. It's unlikely but it is possible. A new Palestinian government controlling Gaza and the West Bank could extend security co-operation existing in the West Bank to Gaza, which could prevent future terrorist attacks. Or it would, at least, be a start. If the status quo remains, if Hamas remains sworn to Israel's destruction and terrorist activity out of Gaza continues then Abbas has made his intentions perfectly clear. It is true that you don't make peace with your friends, but with your enemies, but Fatah were enemies enough for Israel. In short, If Hamas remains Hamas within a new unified Palestinian government, I fail to see how peace can be negotiated.

Israel is correct to halt peace negotiations with any Hamas backed government - for the time being. Only time will tell what the make-up and ideology of a new elected, unified, Palestinian government would be. Netanyahu and myself fear that Abbas' cuddling up to Hamas only means it will be more extreme than it currently is, which ends the peace process. Crucially, it need not be so. If nothing else, however, this reconciliation may just confirm what many Israelis have argued since the split - Hamas and Fatah are two sides of the same coin. And that is not a positive. Not for peace, not for Israel, not for the Palestinians.