J Street regards news of a preliminary agreement on political reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas with caution and urges the United States to press forward with an even more assertive effort to forge a two-state solution. This development only highlight how important it is for the United States - backed by the international community – to define the contours of a two–state solution.
J Street has consistently condemned Hamas for calling for Israel’s destruction, using terror and violence against Israeli civilians and denying the Holocaust. Bringing Hamas into a unity government poses real challenges to those of us who are deeply concerned about Israel's security.
However, we also recognize several important realities: first, that one makes peace with one’s enemies not one’s friends; second, that Hamas – although weaker today – still has a significant base of political support within Palestinian society; and, third, that overcoming the split between Fatah and Hamas (and between the West Bank and Gaza) has always been a condition for effective resolution of the conflict.
Many who oppose a two-state deal have argued that these divisions among the Palestinians make peace impossible. Reconciliation would, however, increase President Abbas' ability to carry out a two-state agreement. Now, these opponents of a two-state agreement are likely to shift to arguing that a deal is impossible with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas.
We believe that any Palestinian government must abide by its international commitments, including recognition of Israel and renunciation of violence as a means of achieving its goals in order to play a constructive role in working toward peace through a two-state solution. Were the Palestinian government to reverse course and advance or adhere to Hamas policies in conflict with these principles, there would be almost no chance of peace with such a government or of American aid to it.
If indeed this reconciliation deal is implemented – and history does give reason to question whether it will – the new Palestinian leadership that emerges will have to answer many questions in the coming weeks: Is the Palestinian Liberation Organization – as the official representative of the Palestinian people – still committed to a two-state solution? Is it willing to reaffirm its renunciation of the use of violence and terror against Israeli civilians? Will existing security understandings be honored?
The best way to test this is for the US to put a clear choice before the Israelis and the Palestinians. That is precisely why J Street has called for the United States to put forward a framework for a two-state deal that sets out parameters for resolving the core issues of the conflict.
The uncertainty created by the reconciliation announcement demonstrates why such a framework is needed to prevent a downward spiral of moves that no party will be able to control. It is also essential that all sides do their best to keep the situation calm and prevent escalation and further violence.