Daniel Levy writes:
The Palestinian factions have reached a power-sharing deal – albeit a fragile one. Regional developments helped, affecting the calculations of both Fatah and Hamas. The role of post-Mubarak Egypt and its emerging independent regional policy cannot be underestimated. Israel’s current government, though, is key to the glue binding Fatah and Hamas together. While the peace process has long been moribund, the Netanyahu government’s refusal to indulge in the make-believe of possible progress rendered obsolete even Fatah’s well-honed capacity to suspend disbelief.
Yet if the deal is to last, the Palestinian factions will eventually have to address substance: their national goals and the strategies to be pursued in attaining them. A real political dialogue will force both Fatah and Hamas out of their respective comfort zones. Fatah will have to elaborate a post-negotiation and (one imagines ) non-violent plan for freedom, and decide how such a plan co-exists or breaks with existing donor and international relations, including coordination with Israel. Hamas will have to confront the requirements of international law (including abandoning the use of violence against civilians ), and ultimately resolve its own verbal acrobatics regarding a Palestinian state alongside Israel – if a serious deal becomes available.
Not surprisingly, unity is also popular in Israel. Israeli unity that is. Palestinian unity has been met with almost blanket condemnation at the political level. But in reacting to Palestinian developments, we Israelis should first of all be asking what the problem is that we need to address. For the Netanyahu government that major problem, apparently, is Israel’s international image and the prospect of pressure being exerted on Israel to advance peace. In the community of nations, Israel’s standing has further plummeted under the tutelage of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The intra-Palestinian deal therefore offers a delightful opportunity for Israel to register some big points on the “Who’s to blame for no peace?” scorecard and to fend off any such pressure.
Israel’s challenge, though, goes way beyond public relations. Israel’s challenge is how to adapt, shape and secure its future in this region.
For that reason alone, we would benefit from our own national reconciliation dialogue, one focused on what Israel’s aspirations and strategies should look like.
As tectonic plates shift around us, Israel is clinging to an illusion, namely that when and if the Palestinians are ready, Israel will be able and willing to deliver a dignified two-state solution. The truth is less comforting. Currently there is no political path to an Israeli governing majority that could deliver a mutually acceptable two-state outcome. And there is no status quo: Israel’s predicament is deteriorating, not stable. It is time for Israel to engage in the exercise that Palestinians have begun, and to ask what it is that we really want for ourselves.