“Happy is the man who has not followed the counsel of the wicked, or taken the path of sinners, or joined the company of the insolent.” Psalms 1:1 (The Israel Bible™)
Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, along with a delegation of 460 members of security personnel, officials, and experts, will meet on Monday with the Islamic terrorist group Hamas for reconciliation talks. The two Palestinian factions are set to discuss a unity government, brokered by Egypt, in which control of the Gaza Strip would be transferred to the Palestinian Authority, a move that has been attempted numerous times to no avail.
Hamas, which is based in the Gaza Strip, is a United States- and European Union-designated terrorist organization that commits atrocities against its own people and the state of Israel, including using Gazans as human shields and murdering Israeli men, women, and children.
If successful, the participation of Hamas in the new Palestinian government would pose another barrier to a peaceful solution between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he’s ready to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, but maintains that Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, whose anti-Semitic and anti-Israel credos lie at essence of its charter, until they recognize Israel and renounce terrorism.
David Bedein, a Middle East expert and the Bureau chief of the Israel Resource News Agency, called the reconciliation an “open plan for coordination of terrorist activities,” positing, “How is that two terrorist organizations can get together to plan mass murder activities and call it a unity government?
“Nobody in Israel is ready for this, there will be a lot of people killed in an organized, systematic, and armed effort of terrorist groups coming together, with funding,” he told Breaking Israel News.
Bedein views this as the “next stage” of the Israeli-Arab war. “The meaning is simple,” he said. “All of the Arab forces – the PLO, the PA, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Israeli Arabs, will be coordinating and Israel is not psychologically prepared to absorb 50 terrorist attacks a day.”
Previous attempts at reconciliation between the PA and Hamas are numerous, including an attempt of a “national consensus government” in April 2014, but Hamas and the PA have independently expressed confidence in the new round of negotiations.
In 2006, Hamas was elected in Gaza as a less corrupt alternative to Fatah, the Palestinian political party that Mahmoud Abbas heads. Hamas offered hospitals, schools, and soup kitchens for Gaza’s two million residents, whereas Fatah’s leaders misappropriated money. Since coming into power after a bloody overthrow of the PA’s command, Hamas has mobilized its people against the state of Israel both militarily and ideologically. The idea of a Palestinian government including Hamas makes Israel understandably apprehensive.
On the other side, the United Nations’ special envoy to the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, views the reconciliation positively. Mlandenov said of the negotiations, “If we miss this opportunity, I don’t think another opportunity will come anytime soon.”
The unity government is seen as beneficial in Gaza, where the population suffers wretched living conditions, overcrowdedness, and destitution at the hands of its leadership. Due to Hamas’ proven track record of illegally importing weaponry, the Gaza Strip is under Egyptian and Israeli blockade and therefore suffers from electricity and water shortages (five hours of electricity per day and running water only one to two days per week) as well as economic deprivation (unemployment rate of 44 percent).
In an effort to force Hamas to come to the negotiating table, this summer the Palestinian Authority stopped paying Israel for its electricity supply in Gaza, leaving Hamas with little alternative but to approach the PA in apprehension of Gazan social unrest.
The meeting follows a decade of hostility, and at times violence, between the Palestinian parties, with the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, ruling in the West Bank, and Hamas ruling Gaza. Once the unity deal goes through, the PA has agreed to continue electricity payments, resume previously halted salary payments for Gazan officials, and streamline the process of providing medical care outside of Gaza for its residents.
Although the United States has not shown opposition to the reconciliations, any agreement without disarming Hamas’ military wing would be a major problem in the eyes of the U.S., Israel, and international community.
It is unclear whether Hamas is prepared to disarm and transfer control of the Gazan borders to the PA, a precondition for a unity government. While Senior Hamas official Mussa Abu Marzuq said that disarmament is non-negotiable, the PA maintains that in a unity government, security would have to be maintained “without any interference from any faction.”