Fatah and Hamas, the two political factions in occupied Palestine, signed an historic reconciliation agreement today, aimed at promoting unity into the next phase of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“We forever turn the black page of division,” the Western-backed Mahmoud Abbas said at the declaration ceremony in the Egyptian capital Cairo, promising to “soon” visit Hamas-held Gaza Strip.

The pact, long in the making, provides for the creation of a joint caretaker Palestinian government ahead of national elections next year but leaves key issues unresolved, such as who will control the Palestinian security forces, and makes no mention of relations with Israel […]

Abbas rejected Israel’s opposition to the pact, saying the reconciliation with the militant Islamic group was an internal Palestinian affair.

“They are our brothers and family. We may differ, and we often do, but we still arrive at a minimum level of understanding,” Abbas said of Hamas.

In a message to Israel, Abbas added: “We reject blackmail and it is no longer possible for us to accept the occupation of Palestinian land.”

This sets up an effort to go to the UN General Assembly in September and petition for a declaration of an independent Palestinian state. Abbas said plainly that he would seek recognition at the UN, and the agreement unifies the Palestinian people behind that effort. The peace process will not be “frayed” by this agreement because it already didn’t exist.

There was a slight dispute over the protocol of who would sit where on the podium, suggesting that the pact may not be as durable as it looks now. But for the moment, Palestine is unified and has a plan.

Tony Blair, who still has a job as a Mideast envoy for some reason, gave qualified support to the reconciliation, but only if the new government recognizes Israel’s right to exist and forswears violence. Hamas spokesmen dismissed this, and Abbas described it as irrelevant, while saying that the government will enter the peace process and not refrain from violence. There is currently a truce in place in Gaza.

Over the long-term, it will not be possible to forge a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine if there are essentially two Palestinian governments. This deal actually does make peace somewhat more likely over the long term. The short-term disadvantages are minor because Netanyahu has no interest in peace talks anyway. The UN vote should be extremely interesting in September.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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