Posted by on May 22, 2014 in Blog

By Emily Cooke
Summer Intern, 2014

Despite the disappointing collapse of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, debates over what prompted the latest failure have not yet subsided. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the Palestinian pursuit of a unity government between Fatah and Hamas as a chief impediment to lasting peace, and the U.S. government has seemingly adopted a similar, albeit less resolute, skepticism. With a united Palestinian government suspected to debut on the international stage next week, Egypt has also offered an official position on reunification.

A look back to the 2013 military coup reveals that amiable relations between the recently outlawed Brotherhood and Hamas fueled Egyptian animosities toward this Palestinian faction. Army chief Abdel Fattan al-Sisi’s most recent interview, however, implies a notable shift in Egypt’s position on Hamas. Probed for his position on the Palestinian unity government, al-Sisi articulated the need for a Palestinian state, and he later called on Hamas directly to rehabilitate its relations with Egypt.

Al-Sisi and his forces in Cairo have abandoned the hardline rhetoric of the past, choosing instead to embrace the teeming potential of the future, and al-Sisi’s position denotes one area where the United States could take cues from Egypt. Capitalizing on the benefits of endorsing Palestinian unification, al-Sisi prefers not to contest what is likely inevitable, and instead utilizes this endorsement to assert an Egyptian position in the region and accrue credibility for his regime.

Now consider this tactful Egyptian endorsement in contrast to a U.S. line on unification crafted by Senators Ben Cardin and Susan Collins. In a letter to President Obama, the two implore the President to address Abbas and his “distracting efforts with Hamas.” In this view, unifying two factions after seven years of division is problematically reduced to a mere distraction, leaving no room to discuss the potential benefits of Palestinian unification. Encouragingly, however, a recent news briefing certified that the White House is prepared to cooperate with a unity government.

While the United States cannot condone any political entity that sanctions violence or threatens American liberties, Abbas addressed these concerns in a display of solidarity, promising a government that denounces violence and recognizes Israel. Although the unity government has not been unveiled, the United States does not yet harbor any real reason to doubt Abbas’ sincerity, a point jointly expressed by four House Representatives in their own letter to President Obama.

The United States should join Egypt in its realistic approach to a unity agreement and proceed in the manner proposed by these House members, to “carefully examine the composition and policies of any interim government before moving to alter the United States relationship with Palestine.” The United States should seek to accept Palestinian unification not as a step back, but as an encouraging step forward, and in this vein seek to positively shape the new unity government in its impressionable infancy. 

comments powered by Disqus