The Fatah Hamas Unity Government Is Promising


The proposed unity agreement between
Fatah and Hamas has stirred up emotions and convinced many that Fatah will
radicalize. The opposite is true and the conditions under which Hamas becomes
more extreme and more rigid are exacerbated when Hamas is isolated. Financial
support from the United States is the main barrier to the proposal. Abbas fears
loss of financial support from the United States if it unifies with Hamas
because the US categorizes Hamas as a terrorist organization. But setting US
financial support aside for the moment, there are advantages to the Fatah Hamas
proposed unity government.

On May 8, 2011 I posted an opinion about
the Fatah Hamas unity government and argued that it might be a good thing. Most
people disagree and believe that Hamas will “contaminate” Fatah
resulting in a hardening of Fatah’s positions. But the case can be made that
Hamas is most likely to moderate. The actual reconciliation statement is a
moderate document that should smooth out Hamas more than it will sharpen Fatah
edges. The document is a simple statement and you can read it in its original

Clearly, there are defensible arguments for the other side. Barry
Rubin, an articulate spokesman for Israel, wrote in Bitterlemons ( that “either the partnership will break
down or it will make Hamas stronger, the PA more radical and, hence,
unsuccessful in producing peace, prosperity, or progress toward an actual
Palestinian state.”Rubin and others have argued that the move is simply
designed to increase recognition for the Declaration of Independence at the
United Nations because Fatah will be asking for territory that it currently
does not rule. Polls show that large percentages of Palestinians want the
dispute settled and the unity agreement will help Palestinians. There is little
doubt that Abbas cannot go before the world and the United Nations divided. His
position is considerably stronger with the Palestinians united.

Hamas, it is argued, is a disciplined organization with a clear
ideology and is in a strong position to radicalize the Palestinian Authority.
Hamas has more sponsors and backing in the Middle East including Iran, Syria,
and the Muslim brotherhood.

But on the other side of the argument,
the side that resonates with me, Hamas is like any political organization that
must adapt and respond to the environment in some way. The reconciliation
agreement itself is a moderating move that has the potential to influence
Hamas. We must remember that Hamas has already agreed to form a government that
includes non-Hamas members. A reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah means that
the perspectives of both will be included in decision-making. This too will
have a moderating effect on Hamas. Hamas has generally accepted the
establishment of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as
the capital. This is a position that is not too far from the opinions of the
general populace.

We have already seen some moderated
language from Hamas. They have referred to the importance of mutually
acceptable decisions and a balanced process with Fatah. Whatever solutions to
the Palestinian problem remain to be realized in the future, they were not
going to happen without some sort of agreement or unity between Hamas and
Fatah. And although I still cannot imagine Hamas accepting and recognizing
Israel in the near future, this too is inevitable if there is ever to be a
viable Palestinian state.

Conditions in the Gaza Strip are
difficult and Hamas, even though they hold spiritual and symbolic value for the
locals, has delivered mostly violence rather than economic help. And Hamas has
to consider international conditions. There will be a new government in Egypt
and Syria is increasingly unstable. This has upset the regional balance and
confused any peace processes even more than they are. The Arab world has been
encouraging unity between Hamas and Fatah and they have been pressuring the two
sides. This, too, has had a moderating effect on Hamas. They simply will not
get very far as an isolated revolutionary movement that spends all of its time
challenging Israel. Hamas must improve its legitimacy in the eyes of the
Palestinians and subscribing to a more pragmatic political agenda is one way to
accomplish this legitimacy.

As long as Hamas avoids violence, there is much
they can do to enhance their international standing. And even though it is
early, and most Hamas concessions have been superficial, it is a start.

About Donald Ellis

Professor Emeritus at the University of Hartford.

Posted on June 25, 2011, in Israel. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The Fatah Hamas Unity Government Is Promising.

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