The Fatah-Hamas Agreement: The Failure of Obama's Middle East Policy, and the End of the 'Peace Process'

It has just been announced that Fatah and Hamas, the two bitter rivals in the Palestinian nationalist movement, have signed a unity accord to end their decades long divide. Their preliminary agreement, according to The New York Times, provides for their creation of a transnational unity government for both the West Bank and Gaza, to be followed by new elections after one year.

Immediately, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a firm statement about the meaning of this agreement:

"The Palestinian Authority has to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas,"  Mr. Netanyahu said in a televised address on Wednesday. "Peace with both of them is impossible because Hamas aspires to destroy the state of Israel and says so openly."

Netanyahu is correct. What it means, moreover, is the immediate end to the mythical “peace process” that the Obama administration has been trying to resurrect since Obama assumed the presidency. The fig leaf is now off the Palestinian Authority and the idea that the West Bank government of Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is a viable partner for the attainment of negotiations that would lead to a two-state solution.

Now that Fatah has made it clear that it prefers unity with the Hamas terrorists -- despite the documented fact that Hamas has itself slaughtered and murdered scores of Fatah representatives in cold blood the past few years -- it is crystal clear that there is simply no Palestinian entity that can serve as any kind of negotiating partner with Israel.

According to reporter Isabel Kershner’s story in the Times, the announcement “appeared to catch the Obama administration…by surprise.” If that is the case, it not only reflects on the poor intelligence capacity of the United States in the region, but also reveals the administration’s dependence on its myopic hopes about a new peace process taking place. Indeed, as Abbas revealed earlier to Newsweek:

Obama had led him on, and then let him down by failing to keep pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank last year. "It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze,"  Abbas explained. "I said OK, I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with a ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, jump. Three times he did it."

Having been burnt by Obama already, clearly the PA decided that rather than go along any more with the current U.S. administration’s lofty plans, it was better to cut a deal with Hamas than find that Hamas would take over the West Bank on its own, assuring the arrest, imprisonment or elimination of Fatah leaders, or the total collapse of any Fatah role in a forthcoming Palestinian state or territory.