Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Palestinian reconciliation: Good for the Jews or Bad for the Jews?

abbas and haniyehIt has been buzzing in the news for awhile, and today we all got our confirmation: the PLO and Hamas agree to a “historical Palestinian reconciliation deal“. After years of bitter rivalry and disagreements, they have come together to begin to form a “unity government”. And even though Abbas has more or less told Israel to mind its own buisness, (his spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said the reconciliation was not Israel’s concern) we all know that this is our business. And so at every milestone we ask: is it good for the Jews or bad for the Jews?

The initial response is to say bad. Aluf Benn, in his recent Haaretz Op-Ed piece believes that the future of the Palestinian nationalist movement is with Hamas, if this is so than any “unity” governed will simply be Hamas dominated, and therefore terrorist dominated. This leads him to fall down a pessimistic slippery slope asserting that this will push Israeli society behind Netanyahu in his claim that if there is a West Bank withdrawal it will be taken over by Hamas, and thus be an Iranian satellite full of terrorist attacks (he’ll point to the Ashdod bombings and the recent school bus bombing to back the terrorist attack claim) , and this will push Livni to therefore join a Netanyahu led unity government to stand strong against Palestinians and international pressure. To sum up: the bad is a Hamas takeover masked by a unity government, therefore international pressure will continue to mount against Israel pushing Israel far more right, and stifling any hope for peace. Oh, and then a third intifada is probably inevitable.

Seems bleak. So is there any good for the Jews? There must be because the answer to the question, ‘is it good for the Jews or bad for the Jews’, is always answered with both good and bad.

For some time now, as Abbas has been trying to find support to independently declare a Palestinian state, critics have been urging Netanyahu to come up with his own clear and serious peace plan that would force Abbas to deal with Netanyahu as well. Last year at Netanyahu’s foreign policy speech at Bar Ilan, Netanyahu pledged to forge peace. He said, “We do not want to rule over them. We do not want to run their lives. We do not want to force our flag and our culture on them.” Later in his speech he said, ” Friends, in order to achieve peace, we need courage and integrity on the part of the leaders of both sides.” This is our opportunity to show our courage and our integrity. If we don’t want to rule over them, then we don’t have to. Perhaps this reconciliation will provide us the opportunity not to shut out the left, but to listen to it. While Hamas and the PLO are drafting a new government, we can draft a vision for peace. We don’t need to wait to see what they will do, but rather force them with an option they can’t turn away from. And so instead of leaning on our pessimistic instincts we can hope that Hamas will not corrupt the PLO, but rather the PLO will influence Hamas. If we can prove we are standing strong for peace (by a big option or a concrete drafted idea for peace) we can perhaps gain some lost control.

In any case, good or bad, history has proved to me in times of crisis Jews are their most creative. So if Hamas and Fatah want to start a fresh page- maybe we all can too.

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