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The Israeli journalist Bernard Avishai explains what the “unification” deal between Fatah and Hamas means in the current political reality of Palestinian and Middle East politics, why the deal itself is a reflection of the weakness and unpopularity of Hamas among Palestinians (Hamas has a 25% approval rating in the West Bank and Gaza), why this deal is not only a victory for Mahmoud Abbas over Hamas, but why it offers the Palestinians and Israelis an opportunity to move forward in negotiations for a two states for two peoples resolution of the conflict.

Of course, this presumes that both sides are really interested in a two-state solution and willing to make the hard choices and sacrifices necessary to get a deal.

Despite PM Netanyahu’s speech at Bar Ilan University in 2009 calling for two-states, 40 members of his ruling government coalition are adamantly opposed to that very principle though the majority of Israeli citizens are in favor as is the majority of the American Jewish community.

Israel’s strong negative reaction to the PA unification agreement contrasts sharply not only with the United States and the Quartet, but with India, China, and Russia thereby isolating Israel internationally even further than it already was.

It may be that we will have to wait until the next Israeli election in two years when a new Israeli government coalition is formed and led by someone other than PM Netanyahu and his current extremist coalition partners. Such an Israeli government that is supportive of a two-state solution will then be in a position to work in conjunction with a unified Palestinian Authority in negotiating an end-of-conflict agreement.

It remains to be seen, as well, that given unification and assuming that negotiations would begin again in two years, whether the Palestinians are capable of accepting less than their current maximum demands which include an agreement on a limited number of refugees returning to Israel, and whether Israel would not only remove settlements but accept a division of Jerusalem using some formula that assures security and that the holy city can be both the capital of Israel and the Palestinian state.

In the meantime while we wait, I would hope that Israel stops building any settlements beyond the Green Line, the US Congress continues to provide funding to the Palestinian Authority so that it can survive, business and development opportunities in the Palestinian areas grow, and the security arrangement between Israel and the PA remains strong. It is in everyone’s interests that this happens except, of course, Israel’s right-wing settler movement and Hamas.

Bernard Avishai’s New Yorker article, “Mahmoud Abbas Winning on Points,” is a must-read piece of journalism – http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2014/06/mahmoud-abbas-winning-on-points.html

After reading it, despite the distrust and animus that Israel, the west and so many of us have towards Hamas, its cruelty and its vicious terrorist past, I hope you will come to the same conclusion that I have, that the decision taken by the United States, the Quartet and other countries to support the unified Palestinian Authority (which still professes acceptance of the state of Israel, rejection of violence and support for all past signed treaties) while watching and evaluating what Hamas does, makes rational sense and is worthy of our support.