Posted by on April 28, 2011 in Blog

To frame the Palestinian choice as "reconciliation or peace" is, at best, naïve - at worst, delusional. The Netanyahu government has shown no interest of moving toward peace - unless they dictate the terms and the Palestinians surrender and accept.

What Fatah and Hamas have done in achieving their accord is important and should be supported. But two cautionary notes are in order: 1) they have merely announced an engagement - the wedding is scheduled down the road. Obstructionists can still break it up; 2) the US can be one of these obstructionists (as we have been in the past) if we put too much pressure on the Palestinians and/or deny them needed aid (see MJ Rosenberg's piece today on the issue). Because Israel continues to deny Palestinians access and egress to the outside world, no real economy can develop. Much of that economy is now dependent on foreign aid. To punish a captive people by denying them aid would be cruel and most unhelpful.

The Palestinians need this unity and the US and the Israelis need the Palestinians to be unified. Palestinian reconciliation is a precondition to any peace agreement and to stability in that region. Hamas (whose past behavior I deplore and whose politics I reject) is a real part of the Palestinian polity. The Bush approach of working to deepen the internal Palestinian divide only resulted in Hamas winning the election, then taking control of Gaza - with disastrous results all around.

This effort at reconciliation may provide Palestinians an opportunity to get their house in order and to move Hamas in a more constructive direction. Those in Israel and in the Congress who are hyperventilating over Hamas' Charter ought to read LIKUD's first and/or read some of the choice religious pronouncements coming from Shas' spiritual leader.

What we should be concerned with is behavior, and this reconciliation agreement may be the best way to guarantee that Hamas acts responsibly.

Bottom line: Palestinians shouldn't be asked to choose between "reconciliation or peace" especially when the party doing the asking is denying them the chance to have both. Palestinians need both reconciliation and peace. They are working on the former. Now is the time for the US and Israel to make a real contribution to advancing the latter.

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