With the announcement Thursday that Hamas had given up control of the Gaza Strip to Mahmoud Abbas’ unity government, hardline Israelis opposing peace negotiations have lost two big planks in their argument.
Many right-wing politicians have long claimed negotiations with the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority were pointless. Even though Abbas led the official government which had control of the West Bank, rival political group Hamas maintained control over the more volatile Gaza Strip.
Hard-liners can’t use that argument now.
Some Israelis have also argued that negotiations shouldn’t commence until Palestine is united in recognition of Israel’s legitimacy. With the Palestinian Authority regaining control of Gaza from Hamas, this is once again the case.
While the official charter of Hamas refuses to recognise Israel’s right to exist, the Palestinian government has recognised Israel for more than 20 years. Still, many hardliners have since moved the goalposts by demanding Israel be recognised as a specifically Jewish state as a pre-condition to negotiations.
Despite recognising Israel’s legitimacy, Abbas refuses to recognise it as a specifically Jewish state. Doing so would undermine his political standing in Palestine given roughly 20% of Israel’s population are Arab Palestinians.
With control over the entirety of the Palestinian, Abbas is now in a stronger position to negotiate a potential peace deal between the nations. Still, nobody will be holding their breath.
Peace negotiations brokered by the United States collapsed earlier this year, and Israel continues to build settlements on shrinking Palestinian land. It’s also unclear how much control the Abbas-led government will have over terror groups operating in the Gaza Strip.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder of the liberal Jewish-American organisation J Street, told Business Insider that Gaza’s return to the Palestinian Authority was a step in the right direction if they re-committed to a two-state solution and a renunciation of violence.
Ben-Ami, a former advisor to President Clinton, said, “It remains to be seen if such steps will be taken but, if they are, they are a step forward for those who seek peace, security and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
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