Towards Palestinian Reunification: Dilemmas for Israel

Following the Annapolis Summit, it is likely that the internal pressure on Abu-Mazen to reunify Hamas-led Gaza with the West Bank by reestablishing a unity government, will increase. This scenario would raise several dilemmas for Israel.
Following the Annapolis Summit, it is likely that the internal pressure on Abu-Mazen to reunify Hamas-led Gaza with the West Bank by reestablishing a unity government, will increase.

Israel has little influence over internal Palestinian politics and may be forced to react to developments there. Hence, a Palestinian unity government would raise several dilemmas for Israel:

  1. The Future of the Political Process - Israel has previously stated that a unity government with Hamas would signal the end of the political process. The establishment of such a government would thus require Israel to decide whether to maintain this position, or to continue negotiations with the PLO, which still does not include Hamas.

  2. The ‘3 Demands' Policy - Since Hamas' electoral victory (1/06), Israel posed 3 demands to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in return for removing the boycott over the PA (renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel, and reaffirmation of previous agreements between Israel and the PLO).

    After the Mecca Accords (2/07) and the establishment of a Palestinian unity government, Israel continued to boycott the Hamas-led ministries, while engaging with the others.

    The Hamas' takeover of Gaza (6/07) allowed Israel to work with the Ramallah government while continuing to boycott Hamas regime in Gaza.

    A new Unity Government would require Israel to reconsider this policy towards the PA.

  3. The Question of Ratification - Hamas' takeover of Gaza allowed Fatah to side-step the Mecca Agreement and Cairo Declaration which called for Hamas' entry into the 'new PLO,' and allowed Abu-Mazen to negotiate with Israel on behalf of the 'new PLO'.

    An agreement recreating a unity government may increase the pressure on Abu-Mazen to hold reforms in the PLO prior to ratifying any agreement with Israel.

  4. Military Operation in Gaza - In light of continued Qassam rocket fire from Gaza, there are increasing calls for a military operation. PA control over Gaza under the leadership of Abu Mazen might complicate such a move.

  5. Strategy for Reaching Permanent Status - Hamas ideologically opposes a Permanent Status Agreement that leads to an End of Conflict with Israel. Thus, a Unity Government comprising both movements would complicate reaching Permanent Status through agreement - the stated goal of the Annapolis process.

Sources

Zvi Barel, Ha'aretz, 12/2/07; full article.

Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, 11/30/07; full article.