If Palestinian rift is healed, does that help US aims in Middle East?
Analysts see some good news for the US, but mostly bad in a Palestinian rift-ending accord. The deal is also seen as a hint of things to come in the increasingly democratic Middle East.
The surprise rift-ending accord reportedly reached in Cairo between the Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas Wednesday is potentially both good and bad news for the Obama administration’s stated goal of forging some kind of Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement by September.Skip to next paragraph
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But the bad largely outweighs the good, many Middle East analysts say.
And beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they add, the accord may offer a glimpse of the more politically complex region the US will have to deal with in the wake of the Arab Spring.
“We’re very possibly looking at a hint of things to come in a more democratic Middle East,” says Daniel Levy, co-director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation in Washington. “Either America figures out how to deal with a general opening up of politics in the region,” he adds, “or it is going to be left behind.”
One thing a Fatah-Hamas accord would accomplish is a pulling of the rug from under the argument that Israeli-Palestinian peace was impossible because Palestinian divisions made reaching any agreement impossible. For years the sharp divisions between the two main Palestinian groups – which went so far as warfare and led to a separate Hamas government in Gaza – have allowed Israel to rightly claim it did not have one Palestinian government with which to negotiate.
So much for the good news.
Hamas as partner in government
The bad news starts at the fact that, if the accord holds and the two factions do indeed form an interim government before eventual elections, the Palestinian government will include a partner – Hamas – that rejects the existence of Israel.
“If anything, this allows the Israelis to say with some authority and legitimacy that they cannot and will not engage in a peace process with a government that is partially headed by Hamas,” says Aaron David Miller, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington.
The official White House reaction to news of the accord appeared to address that point.
"The United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace. Hamas, however, is a terrorist organization which targets civilians," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement. "To play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles and renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist."