A Fatah-Hamas reconciliation is promising for the Palestinian people, but it cannot come at Israel’s expense. If the Palestinian Authority is unable to impose the terms of the deal on the Islamic terrorist group, it would make it clear the deal is bogus.
Any deal that would allow the Palestinian Authority to regain control of the Gaza Strip a decade after Hamas violently took over the coastal enclave in a military coup, holds great promise for the Palestinian people as it spells the end of the bitter rivalry between the Palestinian factions, which will allow the Palestinians to move forward united, as a people that resolve their internal differences within a political framework, rather than by force.
Moreover, once a reconciliation is finalized and the Palestinian Authority reassumes responsibility for civilian life in Gaza, it is expected to lift all the financial sanctions it had imposed on the Strip, paying the salaries of thousands of government workers’ and restoring the flow of electricity to Gaza.
Diplomatically speaking, a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation would debunk the assertion that Abbas does not represent the Palestinian people as a whole. It would lend the Palestinian Authority the credibility of truly representing all Palestinians, and no one would be able to dismiss it by arguing that is not the case as the Palestinians are under the control of two separate political entities.
But as far as Israel is concerned, the real test of the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation between the Palestinian factions, which included exerting substantial pressure on Hamas, lies with the military force in Gaza or, to be exact, its very existence and the question of who controls it.
If the Palestinian Authority is to truly regain control of the Gaza Strip it must, first and foremost, disarm Hamas of its substantial arsenal. The 1993 Oslo Accords, which birthed the Palestinian Authority, make no allowances for the PA to maintain Hamas’ arsenal, either in terms of quantity or quality.
However, if Hamas retains its military capabilities and the Palestinian Authority proves unable to impose the terms of the deal on the Islamic terrorist group and strip it of its weapons, it would make it abundantly clear that the deal is bogus, nothing more than an unconvincing façade of unity devoid of any real value and nothing more than an umbrella for Palestinian terrorism.
If this deal truly prevents the shedding of blood, both Palestinian and Israeli, then, by all means, the Palestinians should be congratulated for this internal political achievement. At the same time, however, it must be clear that if the agreement is nothing more than a smokescreen of vague rhetoric behind which Hamas will only grow stronger, Israel cannot allow it to materialize.
The internal Palestinian reconciliation cannot come at Israel’s expense. It cannot allow an organization whose leaders do not hesitate to declare their intention to annihilate Israel to grow stronger, and with all due respect to the boost in Abbas’ political status, his interests cannot be allowed to compromise Israel’s interests.
If Abbas expects to make the best out of this deal he will be required to pay the price, namely disarming and controlling Hamas and putting the Palestinian Authority’s police in control of all security issues. Israel cannot accept any other move and it should not be the one the carry the Palestinian rapprochement.
Naturally, as the dust settles on the deal and the Palestinian Authority regains its footing in the Gaza Strip, it would be responsible to return all Israelis held in Gaza. But its first and most important test remains to disarm Hamas.
This article was first published in Israel Hayom, October 4, 2017
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