The April 23, 2014, Agreement to form a unity government between the PA and Hamas must finally dispel any illusion that the Palestinians are interested in peace with Israel. Before the agreement, Israel and the PA might theoretically have reached a deal despite Hamas’s control of Gaza, though the parameters and durability of such a deal would be questionable at best. Now even such a myopic view is impossible.
Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since ousting the PA in the “Battle of Gaza” in 2007. In the years since, Israel, the United States and most of the West have had no relations with Hamas. Israel rightly refuses talks with Hamas under any circumstances. Both Israel and past U.S. administrations have threatened that a unity government between the PA (really Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas) and Hamas would be treated as a Hamas government and shunned. Under U.S. law, Hamas is a designated terrorist organization and negotiations with Hamas would be legally questionable even if desirable.
I argued yesterday that the U.S. should give up the fantasy of peace in the near term and take the long view by focusing efforts on reducing incitement in Palestinian society. The premise remains, but more so. Palestinian society must reconcile itself to Israel’s legitimacy and permanence before there can be any peace. With Hamas’s virulent anti-Semitism and Islamism dominating Gaza and presumably now having greater influence in the West Bank, the U.S. should use all of its power to reduce incitement.