The idea of Palestinian reconciliation is kind of like the beautiful, popular senior girl in high school who needs help with her math homework. Every couple of days she comes to you and bats her eyelashes and pouts her lips. You spend hours doing her homework, thinking maybe she picked you not because you like math and wear thick classes, but that she has a secret crush on you. It is an insane notion, but every time she strolls up to your locker you immediately fall under her spell only to be knocked back down.
The most recent homework assignment once again has me convinced that there is something different about this time. Dr. Nabil Shaath, a senior member of Fatah’s central committee visited Gaza for the first time since he left in 2007. Expectations were low from the start. Dr. Salah Bardwil, a senior member of Hamas reportedly said “We are not preventing any decent representative from entering the Strip, but we don’t have many hopes for the results of the visits, even if it does generate a new dialogue with the Fatah movement” before the visit. Indeed, with reports that the PA are detaining members of Hamas in the West Bank, it is unlikely that this meeting would lead to any major breakthroughs.
Apparently Shaath gave his documents to Hamas security officials at the border – a symbolic recognition of Hamas’ legitimacy. In Gaza, Shaath surveyed the living conditions in the strip following the devastation of the Israeli Operation Cast Lead in 2008/2009. Shaath also met with senior Hamas leadership to discuss the support in the West Bank for an end to the Israeli blockade as well as the possibility for reconciliation based on the failed Egyptian initiative. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to meet with Hamas chief Khalid Meshaal until Hamas signs the Egyptian documents, despite reservations by Hamas. If Hamas signs the document, reconciliation talks between Meshaal and Abbas would take place immediately.
In Gaza, Shaath met with de facto PM Ismail Haniyeh and senior leader Khalil al-Haya at Heniyeh’s home in what was reportedly a very friendly meeting. After the meeting al-Haya reported that “here will be changes within the coming days toward achieving conciliation” (this is when the senior girl says your braces are kind of sexy). Shaath said that details were not discussed, but rather the actions that would create an accommodating atmosphere. He added that he left feeling ‘optimistic and hopeful.’
[tweetmeme] Palestinian reconciliation is paramount for any peace deal with Israel. Although some in the Israeli government seem to be adverse to true peace with the Palestinians (implying an independent Palestinian state), DM Ehud Barak recently said that a peace agreement with Palestine was the only way to achieve security for Israel as a Jewish state. Considering that Hamas has hinted at accepting a neighboring Israel along the 1967 borders (official Hamas policy still rejects Israel completely), a reconciliation of Fatah and Hamas would put tremendous pressure on Israel to move towards a peace treaty.
I know that this is probably just another senior girl incident, but if the moderate factions of Hamas – which have been recently leading the party – can bring back a Palestinian unity government or even (gasp) new round of elections, Israel and the US would have no choice but to deal with Hamas. Currently, an independent state of Palestine is impossible; any deal made between Fatah and Israel without the participation of Hamas would only widen the Palestinian schism and, most likely, lead to another civil war. Maybe, just maybe, this time that senior girl will ask me to the movies. Maybe we’ll go to prom…I wonder what we’ll call our children…