Marc Lynch

Palestinian unity talks — a real chance

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal announced today in Cairo that a Palestinian national unity document will be signed in October. The final form of the reconciliation document is to be presented and signed some time next month. It will reportedly include Presidential and Parliamentary elections in June 2010. I’ve not yet seen any word on whether ...

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal announced today in Cairo that a Palestinian national unity document will be signed in October. The final form of the reconciliation document is to be presented and signed some time next month. It will reportedly include Presidential and Parliamentary elections in June 2010. I’ve not yet seen any word on whether this includes a deal for the release of Galid Shalit, the Israeli soldier presumably held by Hamas in Gaza. The Egyptian-brokered talks have been going on for many months now, with little progress or even much reason to expect progress.  Is there any reason to think that a deal is really about to be reached? 

Well, maybe. Meshaal’s announcement follows a noticable change in the tenor of Hamas statements about the Egyptian role, and the level of Hamas representation in this round of talks was significant (not only Meshaal and other Damascus-based leaders, but also a number of key Gaza-based Hamas leaders).  Meshaal has been sending a blizzard of public messages about his willingness to explore some form of long-term ceasefire with Israel if a deal is reached based on the 1967 borders. Fatah is feeling somewhat more self-confident after the non-disaster in Bethlehem’s conference. Most of the Arab world, and most Palestinians, desperately want some kind of a deal to restore the links between the West Bank and Gaza. And no Israeli-Palestinian final status deal which doesn’t include Gaza will have any hope of being a true end of conflict agreement. 

On the other hand, there’s little reason to think that the deeper conflict is any closer to resolution. At the same time as he praised the Egyptian initiative, Meshaal called on the Palestinian Authority to cease its security cooperation with Israel — reflecting deep suspicions about the role of General Dayton’s trained forces and the fears of a civil war amidst the escalating campaigns of arrests and repression by each against partisans of the other, and control over the PLO itself. The nature of ‘resistance’ has hardly been resolved, nor has ultimate control over the PLO itself. 

In short, I’ll still believe that reconciliation has been achieved when I see it. 

The U.S. should absolutely support such a Palestinian reconciliation. There’s no way that it can achieve its desired two-state solution without Gaza, and without convincing Hamas to avoid playing the spoiler. And more: the U.S. should support this with support for massive humanitarian aid into Gaza and the revision of the blockade to make it worthwhile. his is a potentially important moment — and not to be missed.

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