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Five possible consequences of Hamas-Fatah unity

Hamas could be moderated by entering the mainstream, internationally acceptable Palestinian government. Or it could follow the Hezbollah model and slowly reverse Abbas’s legacy.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the swearing in ceremony for the new unity government, Ramallah, June 2, 2014. (Photo: Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the swearing in ceremony for the new Palestinian unity government, Ramallah, June 2, 2014. (Photo: Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

The Hamas-Fatah reconciliation is either the end of days, or the dawn over new horizons. The deal is so confusing because it might mean one thing – or else the opposite.  Here are some of the polarized possible outcomes:

1. Fatah will become one with terrorists, OR terrorists were just co-opted by a more moderate political leadership.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Liberman look at this as Hamas spreading its terrorist stain over Palestinian politics. They probably fear the example of Hezbollah, which first took part in Lebanon’s elections in 1992, and went on to redefine the country.

The other perspective involves Sinn Fein the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, a terrorist organization. Sinn Fein became a signatory to the Good Friday peace agreement of Northern Ireland. The IRA laid down its arms for the sake of the accords.

Either option is a reality. But unlike Hezbollah, Hamas is not as directly dominated by other states. It is more accountable to its own people.

2. Hamas will get stronger, OR Hamas will get weaker.

The accord came about in part because Hamas was already weakened: opposing Assad for the slaughter in Syria angered Iran, Assad’s patron, and led to a slump in Iranian support for Hamas. Then the group lost its Egyptian patron, Mohammed Morsi, to Tahrir. Tunnels to Egypt closed, gas prices in Gaza soared and desperation grew. The political division is top priority among Palestinians. Hamas’ legitimacy was both eroded and limited.

Hamas surely thinks the move will make it more popular. But popular for what? Not for further isolation and bad alliances. Hamas seems to have concluded that it would be rewarded for political pragmatism, advancing elections, unifying Palestinians around the Fatah agenda of an independent Palestinian state within broad 1967 lines, through diplomacy not arms.

So Hamas as a political force might get stronger. But the meaning of Hamas – what it has been up to now – will probably get weaker.

3. Iran will have even more direct influence, OR less.

Meir Javedanfar, an Iran expert who lectures at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, explains that since the Hamas/Iran slowdown, Iran’s support has been partly, tentatively restored. “The relationship is nothing like what it was before.” he told +972 in an interview. “After the deal with the PLO, Hamas may decide they don’t need Iran anymore.” For that reason, said Javedanfar, “[the deal] is a golden opportunity for Israel to pull Hamas even further away from Iran.” Israel, of course, would only reward Hamas if it accepts the Quartet’s three main conditions: recognition of Israel, renouncing violence, and accepting all prior agreements. According to Munib al-Masri, a Palestinian businessman who helped negotiate the deal, that’s exactly what the reconciliation with the PLO and Fatah means, even if not said explicitly.

Javedanfar was blunt about the consequences for Iran: “if you really want to kick them in the feet, you bring Hamas away from Iran.”  Then, he said, the only remaining Iranian proxy in Palestine is Islamic Jihad. “After all the years and billions of dollars of Iranian money, that’s all they have to show for it in Palestine.”

4. Israel has a better partner, OR Israel has no partner.

For years, Israel has been saying it has no partner, and the heart of that argument was the political division. Now that argument is severely curtailed. Further, the political unity deal can symbolize the short but growing list of indicators that Hamas accepts a 1967-line based Palestine. I’ve argued that it’s no use waiting for grand declarations and fanfare – but that if we wish to see the signs of change, there are some.

Here’s another example of a sovereign that didn’t want to accept pragmatic changes among its extremist enemies.  In the late 1990s the guerilla/terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army and the politically moderate Democratic League of Kosovo were rivals. But when invited to negotiations with Milosevic that might have avoided international intervention, they went together. The delegation managed to agree on a deal to redesign relations with Serbia and avoid war. The sovereign state, Yugoslavia/Serbia refused. The resulting intervention devastated the remainder of Yugoslavia and Serbia lost all of its beloved Kosovo, forever. Not Israel’s first choice.

5. The deal is good for Palestinians, OR terrible for Palestinians.

It’s a safe bet that the large majority of Palestinians are supportive. The rift is their top problem (see, for example, page 4 here). They have been disappointed by previous deals that failed. This one stipulates that elections are to be held in six months, putting the democratic process, frozen since 2006, within reach. Elections make statehood look, feel and become more real.

Secular liberal Palestinians probably harbor concerns about increased Hamas influence in their society, and with good reason. But holding free and fair elections are good for political legitimacy and public buy-in. Participation equals building, building gives hope, and hope encourages people to struggle and demand the society they desire.

Unless the elections are marred, for example, by banning who can run or who can vote. One of Israel’s first moves today was to threaten not to allow elections in East Jerusalem, according to Haaretz (Channel 2 reported that the threat relates to the whole West Bank).

But the more Palestine behaves like a state, internationally and institutionally, the more absurd it becomes for Israel to intervene in its internal affairs. While Israel still fancies itself master of its puppets, the Palestinians are playing a whole different game: of empowerment, self-determination, independence. Those are tough values to reject these days. When the world inevitably tips toward their perspective, the idea of foreign intervention in Palestine’s electoral affairs becomes anathema. Say hello to the future fodder for rage against Israel.

After so many false starts, this time is different. The reconciliation and unity government is a turning point for a Palestine that is not crying victimhood, but is gaining momentum and calling the shots. Consolidating the Palestinian vision gives them a greater chance of achieving it. Wasting energy in frantic struggles to respond, Israel is destined to fall behind.

Correction appended: An earlier version mistakenly referred to Hezbollah as a “foreign implant” in Lebanon. The intention was that Hezbollah is directly controlled, financed and backed by other states, as it appears above.


More than just the PA at stake in Palestinian reconciliation
True Palestinian reconciliation must include refugees
Why Fatah-Hamas reconciliation might just work this time

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    1. Piotr Berman

      Politicians and political movements routinely enter quid pro quo relationships that are intended to give mutual benefits. It is a gross simplification to identify “financing” and “backing” with “control”. Likud is backed by some rich Americans, most notably by Sheldon Adelson. Is Likud controlled by them? The “benefactors” clearly perceive an increase of status and they do not have much better options. But it is very complex to decide who influences whom to a larger degree.

      Similarly, theocrats of Iran do not have exactly a surplus of option where they could exert influence so Hezbollah definitely has substantial leverage. To prove that Hezbollah is “controlled”, one would need to show an action that was detrimental to Hezbollah and yet performed for the benefit of Iran.

      To give a more clear example, extremists in Syria do not give a damn whether they get money and arms from Saudis, Qataris, Turks or Americans, and given that the foreign benefactors have different agendas, they end up without leverage to modify the actions performed by the extremists.

      And how “native” is Hezbollah in Lebanon? About as much as other Lebanese.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ginger Eis

        Mr. Berman, here is why your post is internally inconsistent and complete nonsense. You claim namely that “Politicians and political movements routinely enter quid pro quo relationships that are intended to give mutual benefits. It is a GROSS (emphasis mine) simplification to identify “financing” and “backing” with “control” (…)”. But you see, Mr. Berman, ”control” is not only the equivalent in value of the “financing”, but also inherent in the very concept of “quid pro quo” resp. ‘do ut des’, i.e. ‘something for something’ resp. ‘give in order to receive’. If you give nothing, you receive nothing! With that which you give to the other, you COMPEL that other to give you the equivalent (in value) of that which you want in return and vice versa. This is called mutual-control. The extent of the control you have is dependent on your total contribution. Thus, if Iran supplies 100% of Hezbollah’s arms (!), trains ALL Hezbollah’s militants (!), pays their salaries, subsidizes Hezbollah’s business and humanitarian organizations, provides Hezbollah with diplomatic cover, safe heaven, etc., you can be sure that Hezbollah will be dead as a Para-military organization the day Iran withdraws all these services. By necessity, one must conclude that Iran’s control over Hezbollah is grosso modo 100% (!) unless Iran doesn’t care what Hezbollah does with all the money and services it provides, in which case Iran can also contribute to AIPAC. Your claim is thus false.

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    2. Philos

      Hello Dhalia. Overall, good analysis, however, even with your updated version on Hezbollah that part is wrong.

      There is no evidence whatsoever that Hezbollah is directly controlled by anyone other than Hasan Nasrallah and the Hezbollah politburo. It is backed and financed by Syria and Iran but ultimately sets its own policy. This notion that it is some kind of alien infestation of Lebanon is nothing but American and Israeli propaganda that tries to obscure the popular bases of support for that organization in the Beeka Valley and the Shia slums of Beirut. A bit like the propaganda about Assad having no support despite now overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and I’m not referring to today’s elections, but to the fact that if he was as unpopular as he was made out to be he would have never survived this long or be winning the civil war. Like Hamas, Hezbollah has alliances and interests within and without Lebanon. It is not some remote control army of Tehran or Damascus

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      • Ginger Eis

        Typical upside-down Jihadi-logic that has largely destroyed the Arab/Muslim world! You see, Philos, the person you address – Ms. Scheindlin – ain’t stupid. Not at all. She is a PhD-student, commands her stuff and can easily see through the illogicality and disingenuousness of your claims (as do many of the readers here). Anyway, thanks for the confirmation that you are a supporter of Hezbollah. Obviously, you also staunchly support B. Al Assad: a man who has killed over 250.000.00.- of his OWN people (men, women and children) with, among others, chemical weapons; a man who has made several millions of his OWN people refugees in neighboring countries where they live like animals; a man who uses warplanes, tanks etc. against his OWN civilian population and has turned once thriving cities of said population into ghost cities and rubbles, etc. What kind of creature are you, Philos? What is the REAL reason for your obsession with the Jewish State Of Israel?!

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        • Philos

          You are a terrible little troll…

          Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            Right! And the earth is flat, while primitive Jihadis are an oasis of wisdom! You see, Philos, you can run, but you can’t hide.

            Reply to Comment
          • JG

            Why should anyone want to hide from a internetclown like GingerBArRab?

            Reply to Comment
    3. Ginger Eis

      Ms. Scheindlin, there are, IMO, two (probably most) major consequences which are not mentioned in your very professional analysis: (a) the looming clash between Jerusalem and the Obama-administration and (b) early elections in Israel. As things stand now, the Obama-administration has recognized the terrorist-government in Ramallah. This is sending chills down the halls of power in Jerusalem and high-ranking Israeli Officials (Yuval Steinitz among others) are pulling no punches in their outright condemnation. Sooner or later there will be a show-down between Jerusalem and the Obama-administration. How that will play-out is yet unknown. But folks are already bracing themselves trouble ahead. The Right and the Center Left in Israel will stand tall, heads held high with the People of the United States represented by the US Congress to oppose Mr. Obama and the naiveté/machinations of his advisers. But the Achilles-heel of said Opposition will be formed by a few presumptuous, self-centered politicians, such Livni, Lapid, etc., who desperately seek recognition, approval and acceptance from Obama-officials and Europe. These folks will side with Obama, cause coalition crisis and bring down the government in exchange for abundant political commodities, i.e. approval, recognition and acceptance, numerous invitations to the White House and photo-opportunities with high ranking US Officials. With these commodities and troubled relationship with Obama and the EU-bureaucrats they will blackmail the Israeli electorate to vote for them to repair said relations or be damned if they don’t.

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    4. In practice outcomes of the Hamas-Fatah unity move can’t be easily answered in an “either/or” way since the success of the arrangement will be contingent on other situations, influences, pressures… not least how Israel responds.

      What we can talk about with some certainty is why the development occurred. Clearly there has been major pressure building financially and politically, in part due to developments in Egypt… closing of over a thousand of tunnels and an increasingly hostile attitude on the part of Egyptian media.

      It seems more of a one-sided arrangement, at least from the standpoint of the lofty term used to herald it – “national consensus.” Abbas dictated most of the terms and conditions.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Arieh Zimmerman

      Excellent article, many thanks.
      Regarding point #2:
      A further possibility is that the leaders of Hamas, politicians whatever else they are, will seek to hang on to their seats and will be forced to move toward a real modus vivendi with the PLO, and secondarily, with Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    6. RICK

      The dynamics inherent in a colonial settler state are increasing the decoupling of the US-Israel alliance based on dissimilar strategic interests, dissimilar core values, and the accelerating debunking of Israeli propaganda narratives, the later of which has been under way since mid 90’s. For those no longer sipping the Israeli kool-aid, Israel activity is hugely more terroristic than any other of the named protagonists except Syria, which has been repeatedly called out as such for decades with irrefutable documentation. Secondly, it’s obvious that Israel will never take “yes” for an answer, lest it lose its constructed “‘majority” and the country returns to the indigenous majority it has so viciously sliced and diced since ’48. Lastly, as the US population discovers faster and faster that they are supporting an apartheid segregationist state, they are repulsed and will stop that support via BDS…Did anyone mention there was no Hizbollah until the Israeli occupation?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ginger Eis

        The US and Israel are each other’s natural- and best allies in all fields of life, especially in culture, art, literature, innovation, science and technology. Both countries shear everything with one another – with Israel contributing more in terms of new, game-changer-technologies (that put the US and Israel waaay ahead of everyone) and the US doing more in terms of financing. In fact, majority of the key technologies upon which US’ defense and economy rest today are either Israeli or originated from Israel! The interests of both countries are so intertwined that decoupling them from one another (per your fantasy, Rick) will harm BOTH in different ways: (a) in the short-run, Israel will be “weakened” but NOT to the point of being unable to defend herself, (b) in the long-run, the US will cease to be the sole economic and military super power (assuming it continues to be an economic superpower). That outcome – i.e. the end of the US as the sole super power and the demise of the Jewish State – is exactly what the strange coalition of (1) Islamists/Jihadis, (b) the Western far-left/anarchists and (c) the global neo-Nazi movement want more than anything and real Americans (and I mean REAL Americans) have no illusions as to who you really are and what you want! When the United States cried, Israel shall have wept. America’s joys and pains are Israel’s joys and pains and vice versa. Both Nations are the only true guarantors of Liberty and Individual Freedoms on earth and anyone who thinks that this two Nations have conflicting interests or that he can drive a wedge between them is just a moron.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ginger Eis

          BTW, Rick, every single day, Israeli social workers cross into Jordan to provide food, clothing and medical care to millions of Syrian refugees there; tens of hundreds of Syrians wounded in the Syrian civil war are daily given the best medical care the world can offer in Israeli hospitals – FOR FREE, etc. So, Rick, what have you done lately for your brothers and sisters in Syria, etc. Ya know, Rick, in some Arab-countries such as Yemen, Sudan, etc. the folks there survive on less than 1$ a day and dream to have the quality of life provided to the Arab-Palestinians by Israel. What have you, Rick, done lately for your poor and hungry Muslim/Arab brothers and sisters in poor Arab/Muslim countries? You see, Rick, in Israel Muslims/Arabs enjoy more individual freedom that NO ordinary Arab/Muslim could ever enjoy in ANY Arab/Muslim country (e.g. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, Somalia, Kuwait, etc.). What have you, Rick, done lately to improve the human rights situation in Arab/Muslim countries where your brethren are oppressed and repressed by the barbaric culture in which they exist and multiply?

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          • Ginger Eis

            “Secondly, it’s obvious that Israel will never take “yes” for an answer, lest it lose its constructed “‘majority” and the country returns to the indigenous majority it has so viciously sliced and diced since ’48.”

            Damn Right, Rick! The State Of Israel is here to stay. For eternity. And any ugly head, such as yours, that rears itself up against her shall be crushed! Enjoy …


            Am Yisrael Chai!

            Reply to Comment
        • RICK

          The more Israelis avoid arguing or trying to disprove my assertions and defend the indefensible the more I realize how futile it is to take them seriously. The degree of self delusions is breathtaking, to the point of trying to paint this pariah into a paragon of selfless altrusim to the Arab world. Great stuff! You’d think Elon was a piker when it comes to great fiction- beautiful!

          Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            These are the facts, Rick:
            1. 1947: The UN partitioned the land into two parts: one part mostly made up of deserts for the Jewish People, the other part mostly made up of fertile land for the Arabs. The Arabs rejected the UN partition;
            2. 1948: The Arabs went to war to annihilate the Jews and have all the land for themselves. The Arabs lost that war
            3. 1948 – 1967: Judea and Samaria (so-called West Bank) was occupied by Jordan/the Arabs. There was NO SINGLE JEW living there; there was NO SINGLE Israeli settlement there. The Arabs could have established their “Palestinian” State there, but they refused. They wanted to use the territory to launch another war to annihilate the Jews;
            4. 1967: The Arabs (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia) again launched another war of annihilation from all fronts to destroy the Jews and take the whole land for themselves. The Arabs lost the war and the whole of the land;
            5. 2000: Ehud Barak offered the Arabs 94-97% of the “occupied” territories in exchange for peace. The Arabs rejected that;
            6. 2008: Ehud Olmert offered the Arabs the equivalent of contiguous 100% of the “occupied” territories. The Arabs rejected that.
            Again, Rick, you are damn right – i.e., The State Of Israel is here to stay. For eternity. And any ugly head, such as yours, that rears itself up against her will be crushed! Enjoy …http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLB_mtoEZWY. Am Yisrael Chai!

            Reply to Comment
    7. Average American


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    8. Average American

      Jewish Lebensraum collides with Shia Crescent! Abbas is no flunky. USA’s biggest regional fear is the Shia Crescent unites (probably under Iran) and starts controlling oil fields, or almost as bad, starts using a currency other than the dollar to trade oil. (That was the reason for going into Iraq, Hussein started using a different currency.) Jewish Lebensraum is recognized by Shia Crescent, covered up by USA media. Jewish Lebensraum wants ALOT of territory, not just west bank. That’s just the warm-up. Jewish Lebensraum under Zionist agenda wants a regional empire: Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, half of Iraq (to the Euphrates), a quarter of Saudi Arabia, and Sinai (to the River of Egypt). Of course anyone already in those areas who is non-Jewish is expected to move out of the way. Typical Jewish arrogance and racism, well-deserved reputation that propaganda can’t cover up.

      Reply to Comment