Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Fatah faction and President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), is presently being kept in power in the West Bank by the IDF, which has prevented the popular Hamas from developing a powerful military force there. Now it appears that he thinks that he sees a way to gain an advantage from the truce between Israel and Hamas in Gaza:
Abbas, on a visit to Yemen on Thursday, was quoted as saying he welcomed the Gaza cease-fire and was now open to the formation of a national unity government with Hamas.
Earlier this week, Fatah officials announced that Abbas would soon visit Gaza for the first time since Hamas’s violent takeover of the territory in June 2007, and that a reconciliation between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah faction was under way.
Two weeks ago, Abbas formed a committee of senior officials to prepare for “national dialogue” with Hamas – spurred by a plan presented a few months ago by Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. — Jerusalem Post
My guess is that Abbas thinks that the US and Europe are prepared to accept a Hamas presence in the PA, despite the fact that Hamas has not and will not agree to recognize Israel, renounce violence, and accept previous agreements (the Oslo accord) between Israel and the PA. Abbas expects that language will be found to finesse these issues, now that Israel and Hamas are not actually fighting. And Abbas expects that a modus vivendi between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza can be reached which will enable him to remain in control of the West Bank and, at least in title, of the PA.
Hamas for its part will be happy to defer its desire to crush Fatah and take over full control of the Palestinian movement for a while, in return for the international recognition and legitimacy that it will get from this agreement.
It’s quite likely that if Hamas can restrain itself and its allies from restarting violence against Israel we will shortly see a reopening of the crossing between Gaza and Egypt, marking — at least implicitly — the international community’s acceptance of Hamas as something more than an outlaw terrorist group, if less (for now) than a legitimate governing power.
While Israel understands that the truce does not include the West Bank — that is, that it can continue to operate against terrorists from Hamas, Fatah’s al-Aqsa brigades, or other factions — Hamas has said that it will not tolerate IDF actions against its members there. And since the truce agreement did not include the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, we can expect many Hamas members currently imprisoned by Israel to be released in the inevitable trade.
It appears that Israel’s effort to isolate Hamas has failed, and the opportunity for a military solution has passed as well. The next confrontation will likely be between a truncated Israel and a Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority.
This disaster has been accomplished by the Olmert administration that also allowed Hezbollah to survive the Second Lebanon War, a fact which made the recent takeover of the Lebanese government possible. Now Hezbollah appears to be on track to receive the Sheba Farms area and possibly more as part of the fallout from the botched war.
We can say that in many ways Israel’s strategic position is worse than it has been at any time in the past several decades.
At the same time, Hezbollah is reportedly planning to attack Jewish targets throughout the world, demonstrating the truth of the Zionist principle that the security of Jews everywhere depends on the strength of the Jewish state.