Breaking Up the Party

Breaking Up the Party

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The decision made by the Palestinian Authority to reportedly reconcile with Hamas and seek to establish a viable single entity is a surefire strategy to totally scuttle any possibility for Israel and the PA to resume the Kerry orchestrated talks beyond April 29.   Baring a dramatic turnaround from Hamas’ position on Israel, and then the PA’s readiness to proceed without pre-conditions, the Kerry peace formulation will at best be placed on the back burner.

While not totally unexpected given many indications that the Palestinians never truly sought to reach an agreement with Israel—but only to gain the prisoner releases which have been largely accomplished—only the apparently sudden decision now to proceed with a rapprochement with Hamas was surprising. The decision by Abu Mazan now to move ahead in a direct and confrontational approach in the public arena, might even suggest how desperately the PA wanted to break up the talks. There is little doubt Abbas could have made a more definitive move in the face of Israel and the United States than choosing this moment to break up the Kerry initiative. The likelihood that the PA will also be denied any U.S. assistance from Congress in light of this maneuver seems virtually assured.  The only explanation for the Palestinian decision is that when negotiations appear to progressing even close to a point of progress, they break them up in a dramatic manner.  

Aside from obviously rejecting any further negotiations under these circumstances, it may well be a time for Israel to position itself above the Palestinians rebuke to Kerry (read Obama). Israel can ride the waves of good press and articulate when and how ready it is to resume talks, given Palestinian (and Hamas) acquiescence to Israel and the U.S.’s long established three pre-conditions; recognition of Israel, renunciation of terror, and acceptance of previous agreements.

Israel should let the theatre between the Palestinian groups play out without any demands and without any drama whatsoever from Bibi. Israel holds the high ground here so clearly there is no need to push any more buttons, regardless of how much pressure that Bibi might receive from the right. Israel should not use the passing of Holocaust Memorial Day next week and Israeli Independence Day the following week as incentives for ratcheting up its indignation at the Palestinians. Israel needs to focus on the outcome of the Iran talks and consider how effectively it can exploit its current strong position.

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