11:22 AM, Jun 2, 2014 • By JONATHAN SCHANZER
Today the Palestinian Authority announced a joint interim government uniting Fatah and Hamas. West Bankers and Gazans cheer the move because the division between the two most powerful Palestinian factions has been a black eye for the Palestinian nationalist movement. Their rival religious and political visions, dating back to the creation of Hamas in 1987, have divided the Palestinians ideologically. Moreover, the territorial divisions resulting from the 2007 civil war in Gaza had made the creation of a unified, viable Palestinian entity all but impossible, until now.
But the creation of a new government that includes Hamas is fraught with pitfalls. Haaretz reported last month that the Palestinians appear poised to adopt the Lebanon model of allowing a terrorist entity to exist and operate outside of a weak government's reach. Hamas leaders have made it clear that the group refuses to disband the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, its primarily Gaza-based militia. This means that a robust terrorist infrastructure, with tens of thousands of rockets and thousands of fighters, will remain intact. Hamas maintains a state of war with Israel; PA president Abbas has since 2005 made it clear that he seeks to avoid conflict with Israel. Thus, the Qassam Brigades can put the next Palestinian government one Iranian phone call away from full-scale conflict with Israel. This is reminiscent of Hezbollah in Lebanon, where an Iranian-funded and Iranian-trained fighting force can drag an entire nation into a full-scale war without government consultations.
The lumping together of these two rival Palestinian political factions that have been warring for much of the last three decades also sounds a lot like the politics of Lebanon. While the divisions between Lebanon’s political factions fall along sectarian lines, Lebanon’s problems are reinforced by years of domestic conflict. The result is a deeply divided and dysfunctional country characterized by political gridlock. Over time, Lebanon has seen the emergence of Hezbollah enclaves that fall beyond the reach of the government.
The Palestinians, of course, are homogenously Sunni. But the hatreds stemming from the Hamas-Fatah rivalry have been similarly reinforced by years of conflict, which began well before the 2007 Gaza War. The political gridlock is by now well established. And Hamas’ enclave in Gaza is by now well entrenched. A unity government is unlikely to extend the Palestinian Authority’s reach. If anything, it will likely codify the current arrangement.
Finally, the sharp divisions in Lebanon have yielded a volatile system whereby outside actors seek to gain influence through the provision of funds. This has also been the case with the Palestinians, who are heavily dependent upon outside assistance. Although now, with Hamas joining the government, Washington could reduce or cut its financial aid. This could open up a vacuum for regional actors to pursue their political or military agendas.
Despite these very serious challenges, the Palestinians now appear intent upon pursuing a campaign of recognition at the United Nations. These efforts have thus far been welcomed by 138 out of the world’s 193 recognized countries. But the official inclusion of Hamas, leading to the Lebanonization of Palestine, could change this calculus quickly.
10:08 AM, May 9, 2014 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
Last night Martin Indyk, now the chief assistant to Secretary of State Kerry in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, spoke at length to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. One account of his speech appears here at the Times of Israel's web site.
8:03 AM, Apr 30, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The first question that national security types, including the president, supposedly ask in an international crisis is, “Where are the carriers?” Soon, that opening line will be rephrased to something like, “Where are the … oh, never mind.”
Apr 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 30 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
In his Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony last week, Secretary of State John Kerry blamed Israel for the breakdown in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He argued that an Israeli announcement of 700 new housing units for a neighborhood in Jerusalem were what did in the talks. “Poof, that was sort of the moment,” Kerry said. “We find ourselves where we are.”
9:00 AM, Apr 10, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Former President Jimmy Carter does not think much about Hillary Clinton's effort to bring about peace in the Middle East. John Kerry's efforts, on the other hand, are "notable," according to Carter.
He made the remarks in an interview with Time magazine, in response to this question: "What’s your take on Secretary Kerry’s efforts so far in the Mideast?"
2:02 PM, Apr 4, 2014 • By ARYEH TEPPER
So the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are, predictably, collapsing. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry responded to the frustration of his manic peacemaking efforts by quoting an ancient complaint, "There’s an old saying, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Now it's time to drink and the leaders need to know that."
To which one might respond with the words of Psalms: "Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding."
10:18 AM, Apr 3, 2014 • By NOAH POLLAK
It is a cliché at this point to remark that John Kerry is operating in a fantasy world. But sometimes there is no other word to describe the enormous distance between his perception of what is happening and what is actually happening.
For how many decades will we pursue this diplomatic dead end? Mar 17, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 26 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
To be outrageously iconoclastic among the Washington foreign-policy crowd is easy: Just suggest that the Israeli-Arab peace process is not merely pointless but actually damaging to America’s position in the Middle East and bad for both Israelis and Palestinians.
6:44 AM, Feb 6, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
David Horovitz, writing for the Times of Israel:
US Secretary of State John Kerry may feel heartfelt concern about the growing campaign to delegitimize Israel and to boycott it. One of the least smart and least constructive ways to tackle the danger, however, is by issuing an anguished public prediction that this is what awaits Israel if his peace effort fails.
2:37 PM, Feb 3, 2014 • By ARYEH TEPPER
David Ignatius has been writing from Israel recently. His column from late last week included the following passage illustrating why Israeli-Palestinian peace might "still prove insoluble":
4:23 PM, Jan 13, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Barack Obama talked briefly about the Iran nuclear deal and said "give peace a chance." Via the pool report:
Pres. Obama said the implementation agreement finalized over the weekend gives the parties "the time and space" to reach a comprehensive accord.
"It's going to be difficult, it's going to be challenging, but ultimately this is how diplomacy should work."
"If Iran is willing to walk through the door of opportunity that's presented to them" then the country and its people will benefit.
12:00 PM, Dec 16, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid Secretary of State John Kerry a backhanded compliment in a recent speech to the Union for Reform Judaism.
With the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Middle East diplomacy has entered its mannerist phase.3:10 PM, Jul 31, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
John Kerry says he can get an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement within nine months that would lead to an independent Palestinian state.
6:25 PM, Jul 30, 2013 • By NOAH POLLAK
Secretary of State John Kerry added to the already ample fanfare surrounding the launch of talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators by holding a press conference yesterday to introduce his new special envoy to the peace process, Martin Indyk.