‘Palestinian unity govt plays into Israeli hands’
RT:Fatah and Hamas have started process of reconciliation, while Israel reacted on that by calling off the US-backed peace talks. Why there has been such a strong reaction from Israel?
Uri Zaki: For Israel it’s very convenient to portray this Palestinian unity government as a threat to peace. In fact, the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, I think, in the back room opened a bottle of champagne. This government is not truly interested in promoting peace process and therefore, while they have such a unity government with Hamas, which is of course an organization that uses terror measures against Israel, for them it’s a victory to prove that they are not the ones to blame on the stalemate in the peace process but rather the Palestinians.
RT:Soon after the deal, Israel reportedly carried out an attack on Gaza. Will the military conflict escalate?
UZ: This unity government was the last resort of Abbas understanding that he doesn’t have really an Israeli partner at the moment. In immediate run this is bad news for the peace process, but as I said before, I’m not sure that this peace process actually leads somewhere. In the long run, though, the inclusion of Hamas and the reunion between the two parts of the pre-1967 Palestine, meaning the West Bank and Gaza, is good news for those who actually want peace.
The fact that so far Abbas has been negotiating only representing the West Bank was a weakness for him, to strike a peace deal with only the West Bank is not enough for true Palestinian-Israeli peace accord. If you really want a peace accord with the Palestinians Abbas has to be the leader also of the Gaza Strip. Over a million Palestinians are living there out of 3.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. This is very important in the long run to have the Palestinian unity in the peace process with Israel.
RT:The US has called the agreement ‘disappointing’. Why do the US and Israel oppose the reconciliation which is an internal matter for the Palestinians?
UZ: The Hamas movement is not shy and sometimes uses terrorist measures against Israel. We know that Hamas-led Gaza was a launching base for the rockets falling all the way to Tel Aviv. Of course, the Hamas so far has not accepted Israel’s right to exist, would not recognize the Oslo accords and would not negotiate with Israel. And it has been the traditional point of view of both the US and Israel that the Hamas as long as it doesn’t take those measures cannot be a partner.
Again, in an immediate run I can understand this reaction, but in the longer run it’s very important for Abbas to include Gaza which is led by Hamas. By the way, Hamas’s strength comes from the weakness in the negotiations. As long as the moderate side led by Mahmoud Abbas cannot prove that the negotiations with Israel lead to actual peace to Palestinian state, then the Hamas gets stronger. That’s what we see right now. If there is progress in the peace process, the Hamas stand will go lower and Abbas will be in a better situation representing the Gaza Strip as well.
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