Written by Barry Rubin
Suddenly, after years of persistent failure, Fatah and Hamas--which means the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas--have signed a detailed reconciliation agreement.
Why now? It's preparation for the UN and the claim that the PA is sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinians. In exchange for being able to claim it now rules both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Fatah (PA) made huge concessions that it has always refused to give before.
Naturally, the accord will break down. Presumably after the PA gets a lot of support for being an independent country later this year and before projected Palestinian elections in 2012.
Why is Hamas going along with this? Because the deal gives it a lot, including a promise of elections in a year. Hamas won the last elections and presumably is confident--especially as it looks at electoral successes for Hizballah in Lebanon and probably soon for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt--that it will win again.
But there's also another reason. Hamas is probably quite happy with the idea that many countries--and perhaps the UN--will recognize an independent Palestinian state unconditionally. In other words, there will be a widely, or internationally, accepted Palestine without the need to make peace with Israel. No concessions need be made. The Palestinians will get everything and give up nothing. They will not be bound in any way by border changes or security guarantees. The struggle to wipe Israel off the map can continue.
It's Hamas's dream come true.
Anyone who thinks this helps the peace process is deluded. Hamas will never accept any peace agreement with Israel and will radicalize Fatah's negotiating position out of competition between the two rivals to prove their militancy. The race to commit the most bloody terrorist acts would also intensify.
Make no mistake. Whether or not this development has any direct effect on the ground, it's another step toward the death of any real Israel-Palestinian peace process.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to http://www.gloria-center.org.· You can read and subscribe to his blog at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.