The chance for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority evaporated as representatives of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement signed a reconciliation deal last Wednesday in Cairo with its bitter rival, the Islamist group Hamas. “We have agreed to form a government composed of independent figures that would start preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections,” said Azzam al-Ahmad, head of Fatah’s negotiating team in Cairo. “Elections would be held about eight months from now,” he added.
In the meantime, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby told Al-Jazeera in a April 29 interview that the “Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza will be open on a permanent basis within seven to ten days.” The minister said Egypt would no longer accept that the Rafah border, Gaza’s only crossing that bypasses Israel, remain blocked, describing the decision to seal it off as “shameful.” Al-Jazeera quoted an Israeli official saying: “We are troubled by the developments in Egypt, by the voices calling to annul the peace treaty, by the rapprochement between Egypt and Iran, and by the upgrading of relations between Egypt and Hamas.”
The deteriorating relations between Egypt and Israel, and the recent revelation of a Fatah-Hamas deal, are additional signs of President Obama’s failed Middle East policies.
Obama’s call for former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak “to go” helped replace him with the current military council that has empowered the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. That same regime is now aiding its Gaza-based affiliate Hamas. The U.S., Israel, and former President Mubarak considered Hamas to be a terrorist organization. The Mubarak regime, along with Israel, had closed all crossings to and from Gaza to prevent Hamas, an Iranian client, from bringing in arms.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas could spell the end of the peace process. “You can not have peace with both Israel and Hamas,” Netanyahu said.
Reacting to the reconciliation deal, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told members of the media that Israel will not negotiate with the Palestinians if Hamas is part of their leadership. “Hamas,” Barak added, “is a murderous terrorist organization that fires rockets on civilians and has recently fired at a school bus with children in it. This is an organization that we have nothing to negotiate with.” Barak charged that Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, is responsible for what just happened. He added: “ Israel will request from its friends in the world not to negotiate with such a government.”
Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, in the only public response from the Obama administration thus far, declared:
As we have said before, the United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace. Hamas, however, is a terrorist organization which targets civilians.