It is reported that the Palestinians are on the verge of a unity government once again. History argues against this as a lasting arrangement, but regardless, Israel’s reaction is predictably and unnecessarily negative. Prime Minister Netanyahu repeats the mantra that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority can have peace with Israel or unity with Hamas but not both. While I understand this view, I think that Israel should have a more creative response.
Why not critique this deal by suggesting that peace can be had with Israel if Hamas fully endorses the principle of peaceful coexistence? If, as some argue, Hamas is moving toward accepting Israel, why not suggest that this be a component of the Palestinian unity process? Instead of simply dismissing them as “terrorists,” challenge Hamas to definitively and explicitly change from a movement rooted in “armed struggle” and antisemitism into one that makes history by breaking with its past.
I know, Hamas sometimes hints at a long-term truce or armistice with Israel and at accepting Israel along the pre-1967 borders. But a truce is not a peace, and demanding a particular end-point of a territorial agreement is not the same thing as negotiating a deal. The many contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians need to be hammered out in an overall treaty. Moderates and progressives on both sides have long known that a territorial settlement will be based on the old ’67 boundary but would also include a substantial exchange of territories. Unfortunately, Israel is neither politically nor physically capable of removing over a half million Jews from all post-1967 neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and each and every West Bank settlement. But, if both Israelis and Palestinians can summon the wit and the will, a deal is there to be made.