The two sides agreed Tuesday evening after talks in Gaza City to form a unity government “within the next five weeks,” according to an announcement by officials on both sides released Wednesday.
But Hamas is unwilling to negotiate with – or for that matter, even recognize the existence of – the State of Israel.
So the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) which represents the PA in all its affairs at the United Nations (UN), and thus the PA, meaning Mahmoud Abbas – who heads both – must choose who to take to the prom.
Will it be Hamas? That fickle friend who makes deals every Monday and Thursday, and backs out at the last minute every time the signature page arrives on the desk?
Or will it be Israel, which will certainly mean he will have to sit down this time in earnest at the negotiating table, and actually get down to business?
Either could mean his death.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said bluntly in response to Wednesday’s announcement that Abbas had reached the crossroads.
“Instead of moving into peace with Israel, he is moving into peace with Hamas. He has to choose. Does he want peace with Hamas, or peace with Israel? You can have one but not the other. I hope he chooses peace; so far, he hasn’t done so.”
The fact that Abbas has continually come up with new ‘preconditions’ to extend the negotiations with Israel beyond the April 29 deadline makes it clear that he wants a way out of the talks that will leave him blameless.
That is a fantasy, since no leader can lead without taking responsibility for his actions.
Netanyahu proposed a plan for extension of the talks – taking a risk that enraged a substantial percentage of the population and its leadership – but Abbas so far has apparently turned his nose up at the offer.
Abbas knows Israel’s red lines but seems determined to stomp across them regardless of the price his people will inevitably pay.
Ultimately, his inability to decide a course on which to steer his people will be his downfall and, tragically, theirs as well.
“Yesterday the Palestinian Authority discussed dismantling,” noted Netanyahu in meeting with reporters. “Today it is mulling uniting with Hamas. Let them decide whether to dismantle or unite.”