The United States brokered peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians deteriorated Thursday following the Israeli diplomatic-security cabinet’s unanimous vote to terminate negotiations, according to CNN. The decision came amid the announcement of reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, both of which have ruled separately for the last seven years.
This accord will set the stage for a united Palestinian government representing both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with the promise of elections to be held within the following six months, according to the BBC.
Israel immediately condemned the agreement, accusing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority of preventing any means of having real peace. He further reiterated Israel’s refusal to negotiate with any government that doesn’t recognize its right to exist (though let’s keep in mind that President Abbas has been negotiating with the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history, within which two parties — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s own Likud party and the HaBayit HaYehudi party — unapologetically deny the right of a Palestinian state to exist).
“He has to choose,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said of President Abbas in a statement. “Does he want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel? You can have one but not the other. I hope he chooses peace, so far he hasn’t done so.”
Others, however, don’t share Netanyahu’s distress. The European Union praised the Palestinian reconciliation, reaffirming the importance of any new Palestinian leadership’s commitment to achieving a two-state solution, which includes recognizing Israel’s right to exist.
And that is exactly how President Abbas has promised he will lead. In fact, it’s how he has led since the Oslo Accords in 1993. Abbas has presented his conditions for a two-state solution: a state of Palestine based on pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital, with a mutually agreed upon solution to the Right of Return and the Palestinian refugees. Though Israel has every right to doubt the intentions of Hamas, which has made no secret of its refusal to recognize Israel, to assume that President Abbas’ stance would suddenly change is ridiculous, as is the assumption that Palestinian unity would somehow change the fact that a majority of Palestinians support a two-state solution. Rather than dismiss reconciliation as a step back, it’s high time Israel recognize the opportunity — both for a unified Palestinian leadership to carry out its international commitments and, perhaps for the first time, for tangible peace.
In a statement, President Abbas reaffirmed his commitment to achieving a two-state solution to the conflict, adding that there is “no incompatibility between reconciliation and the talks.”
And he’s right. If anything, the only disingenuous thing was negotiating in the absence of Palestinian unity in the first place. For too long, the issue of Gaza has remained the elephant in the negotiating room. No one is denying it. In fact, the inability of President Abbas to represent all Palestinians in a final agreement has long been one of Israel’s chief concerns.
This concern can finally be laid to rest — if Israel’s leadership will let it.
It is still unclear what this process will look like. But to completely dismiss the reunification of the Palestinian people will be a failure to recognize the critical opportunity unification could play in achieving a two-state solution in the region, as well as a failure to realize that Israelis and Palestinians simply won’t see peace without it. Palestinians are in great need of legitimate leadership that represents both the West Bank and Gaza and this unification is a start.
Yasmeen Serhan is a sophomore majoring in international relations. She is also the Editorial Director of the Daily Trojan.