Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Second Time’s a Charm?

Probably not; but this Fatah-Hamas deal is more interesting than the last one

Print Email
President Abbas in Qatar today.(-/AFP/Getty Images)

What makes this reconciliation different from the last one?

The Fatah-Hamas deal, struck by Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Meshaal with the backing of emerging regional power broker Qatar, is as vague: The only step forward appears to be clear agreement that Palestinian Authority President Abbas, of Fatah, will be president. Yet there is some reason to believe that this deal may stick, at least for a little longer than the last one: Both sides need it a little bit more now. The P.A. is losing support, while Hamas is newly active in the West Bank; yet Hamas, which just had to abandon its longtime host in Damascus, is going broke. Just generally, the Palestinian cause needs a shot in the arm right now: As Prime Minister Fayyad pointed out last week, the Arab Spring has sapped what has frequently been the Arab world’s cause célèbre of its usual prestige and glamour. (Fayyad’s future will be a major roadblock as the unity government goes forward: Abbas will want him to stay on as head of government, in part because he is a crucial guarantor of Western support; but the Western-educated, technocratic, relatively moderate Fayyad is anathema to Hamas.)

There is the inconvenient but unavoidable fact that Hamas continues to insist on the right to armed struggle and to all of the land between the river and the sea. The peace process, however, has long been premised on the notion that each side is going to give up something. If Hamas will never give that demand up (and it may well not), then neither peace nor the unity government will work. As long as there is even a nominal peace process, however, we are operating under the assumption that Hamas is capable of adopting, as a negotiating precondition, the assumption that Israel has the right to exist. (Again, not saying it will do this, just that if it doesn’t all this talk is moot.) Moreover, Fatah-Hamas unity was going to have to happen to make the peace process work: Hamas’ popularity means it will need to be part of whichever group speaks on behalf of the Palestinian people. The best we can do is hope that the prerogatives of power and legitimacy and its being cut off from Damascus and Tehran will exert a genuinely moderating influence on the group. So, while Prime Minister Netanyahu is right to repeat the line he used several months ago, during Reconciliation 1.0—that Abbas must choose between peace with Israel or peace with Hamas—we observers can at least entertain the prospect of future Hamas reform.

And it’s telling that, while saying the above publicly (Netanyahu also said the time was “not good” for progress), the Israeli government—which surely knew this deal was coming—has also made some interesting offers privately. It suggested that the current West Bank barrier serve as the future borders of a Palestinian state—which would make for a smaller Palestine than the Palestinians would desire, but that’s why they call it negotiating. And, intriguingly, Israel stepped back from demands for permanent control of the Jordan Valley, insisting only on a “long-term” presence. (Zvika Krieger noticed this change.)

If I were a betting man—and given that I thought the Patriots were going to win last night, thank God I’m not—I’d bet against this working out: Hamas still believes what it believes, which is that Israel doesn’t have the right to exist, and it is not so hard-pressed to change tack. But Reconciliation 2.0 seems a little less ridiculous than Reconciliation 1.0, suggesting it’s conceivable that 4.0 or 5.0, a couple years down the road, will be promising.

Palestinian Factions Reach Unity Deal [NYT]
Support for Palestinian Authority Erodes as Prices and Taxes Rise [NYT]
Fayyad Says Palestinians ‘Marginalized’ By Arab Spring [Bloomberg]
Israel Proposes West Bank Barrier as Border [AP/ABC News]
Earlier: Is Meshaal Stepping Down to Step Up?
On Reconciliation, ‘The Devil Is in the Details’

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

Ephraim says:

The parasite (Hamas) is in the process of laying its eggs in the host (Fatah). At some point these eggs will hatch in the soft innards of Fatah, and when they do, the Hamas maggots will drive Fatah to maddness and death, like those parasite-infected zombie bees, who, unbeknownst to themselves, do whatever the parasites tell them to do until they go mad and die.

Fatah is a relic of secular Arab nationalism. Its days are numbered. The only difference between Gaza and the “West Bank” will be that the Hamas takeover may be relatively peaceful rather than bloody. In any event, there is no way that Fatah will survive as an independent entity except perhaps in name only, for propaganda purposes. (However, since the “peace process” is predicated on the obviously false belief that Fatah actually wants to make peace with an intact Israel, this is a moot point.)

Everywhere in the Arab world, the Islamists are in the ascendency, and Hamas, as the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood (who, along with the Salafists, has secured almost total control of the Egyptian parliament) is in a position to completely take over.

The best outcome for Israel is for Egypt to collapse in a heap, as it will almost certainly do in the not-too-distant future, once all of its foreigh reserves are exhausted and it has no money to buy the 50% of the food it needs to import to feed its people.

When Egyptians are starving in the streets and people are rioting for food instead of over the outcome of a soccer match, then we’ll see then how much anyone cares about the so-called “Palestinian national movement” (which is neither Palestinian, national, or a movement. Discuss).

“we observers can at least entertain the prospect of future Hamas reform” Get real!
I am an Israeli who believes in thetwo state solution. But I am a realist and I know who Hamas is. Furthermore, the recent victories of their Muslim Brotherhood Islamist brothers in Egypt will
only give them more support. It breaks my heart to say so but there is no prospect for the peace process in the near future.
I dont know why some American liberals dont
seem to get it. Yes, I too yearn for peace (more than you, I actually live here)
but I dont live in some kind of fantasy land that denies who Hamas is.
Dont expect two states anytime within the
next 15 years – if ever. Just pray that the violence will be limited, Hamas will be defeated and Israel will survive.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Second Time’s a Charm?

Probably not; but this Fatah-Hamas deal is more interesting than the last one

More on Tablet:

Rediscovering the First Woman Rabbi

By Laura Geller — Ordained in 1935, Regina Jonas died at Auschwitz. Now, she’s being honored.