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US and Israel need to accept new reality in Palestine

Publication Date : 27-04-2014

 

The announcement that the two rival Palestinian factions - Fatah and Hamas - have reached a peace deal has set off a hail of criticism from the United States and Israel, supposedly because the reconciliation could jeopardise the Washington-backed peace talks between Palestine and the Jewish state.

Israel's decision to halt the peace talks because Hamas has never come out and said it recognises the right of Israel to exist, while the US is reconsidering its aid to the Palestinian Authority.

Reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas was carried out under the context of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which recognises Israel right to exist and has negotiated with successive governments over past decades, although none of these initiatives have translated into permanent and sustainable peace.

The reconciliation deal agreed by the two Palestinian factions includes working towards a two-state solution that recognises Israel's existence.

The bitter split took place in 2007. Since then, Hamas controlled the Gaza strip while Fatah controlled the West Bank. Israel and the US can't realistically think that they can only deal with Fatah while ignoring Hamas.

But this is not to say that the US and Israel have no right to voice concern about the peace deal between the two Palestine factions. Assurance for the peace talks towards a two-state solution is needed, not an excuse to back away from it.

If the PLO's mandate continues to give peace with Israel the benefit of the doubt, then the process must be given a chance to work itself out.

As for the US, the talk of ending aid to the Palestinian Authority risks highlighting the glaring contradiction in the US's assistance to Lebanon, where the Iranian-backed Hezbollah has been in the executive government for years. And the Shiite outfit has already said they would have no qualms about seeing Israel drop off the world map.

Beside the risk of being seen as embracing double standards, Washington's role as an honest broker could very well be further compromised.

US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has spent much of the past nine months trying to persuade the Israelis and Palestinians to start up a peace process. But over the past few weeks, the two sides have began to drift apart on a number of contentious issues, such as prisoner releases, the Palestinian Authority joining various UN bodies and Israeli settlement expansion.

Indeed, two decades after the Oslo Accords, hopes for a fair deal for the Palestinians have gradually faded as time passed by because the land they control continues to shrink while Israeli settlements grow.

True, Israel may not like to deal with Hamas. But the same could be said about the Palestinian leaders who can't stand right-wing Israeli politicians who have no qualms about taking land from Palestine just because they feel like it.

Israel and much of the world community used the split between Hamas and Fatah as the basis to criticise any peace effort. Today, in the aftermath of Palestinian reconciliation, they can't use the same excuse without sounding hypocritical.

From the look of it, Israel has been benefitting from Palestine's weakness - and this weakness stemmed from the fact that Fatah and Hamas have been at each other's throat. But if Israel is sincere about peace, it should realise that a capable negotiating partner, who under the risk at hand, is beneficial to them as well.

 

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