Thursday, April 24, 2014

The company you keep

Dan Margalit

"Will two walk together, except they have agreed?" asks the Bible (Amos 3:3).
The Hamas-Palestine Liberation Organization national unity government, signed between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, fits the old Talmudic adage, "Not for nothing did the starling follow the raven, but because it is of its kind." Yes, Abbas and Haniyeh are indeed Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
Two days ago the trickster from Ramallah summoned Israeli journalists to elaborate on his preconditions for extending the peace talks. He said he was committed to peace, but he withheld an important piece of information: Before the sun rises on the following day, he will have effectively signed a "reconciliation agreement" to end the schism among Palestinian terrorist groups.

That such a big group of Israeli journalists failed to discern that there was a unity government in the making with a brewing Abbas-Haniyeh alliance says a lot. Especially because these are the very reporters who are in charge of covering the Palestinian beat. It means their so-called sources in Ramallah are just part of the PLO-Hamas PR machine.
The reconciliation deal, which includes the formation of a unity government and general elections, could unravel before it takes effect. Such deals have collapsed before.
So far, the only thing it has done is create the false impression that the intra-Palestinian strife is over. Even if elections are held some six months from now, it is clear there are predetermined victors: those who are better organized, those who are willing to engage in high-decibel demagoguery, those who can master election fraud. In fact, the winner will probably exhibit all these traits.
But this is beside the point. The problem with the deal is that both Hamas and the PA are playing make-believe. Did Hamas recognize the Oslo Accords? Will it accept a two-state solution that includes land swaps? Will it agree to a constellation where each state has its own capital in a united Jerusalem? Would it agree to accommodate Israel's special security needs?
Had the West upheld a higher ethical standard it would have lashed out at Abbas. So would Arab leaders. Hasn't he promised them that he would pursue talks with Israel and sideline and boycott Hamas? Unfortunately, it seems that no one expects the international community to conduct itself properly in this Middle Eastern desert jungle of ours.
The West will let it slide because it is now fashionable to lay blame on Israel. And truth to be told, we have no way of telling whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu truly envisions a two-state solution. If he could unshackle himself from the hardliners in his government, and if he could follow in the footsteps of diplomatic heavyweights such as Cardinal Richelieu, Klemens von Metternich, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand or Henry Kissinger he would achieve greatness.
He could have, for example, accepted one of Abbas' preconditions by announcing a settlement moratorium for three months. He could then ask Abbas to reciprocate by suspending the unity deal over the same period. If Netanyahu were to pursue this path, he would hopefully drive a wedge between Hamas and the PA, or alternatively, hurt Abbas' image in Western capitals.
Again in the spirit of the wise (this time, Miguel de Cervantes): "Tell me what company you keep" -- or with whom you signed a historic-strategic pact -- "and I will tell you what you are."

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