Reconciliation and Peace: The Latest Hamas-Fatah Deal

An edited version of this piece first appeared at LobeLog.Palestine_election_map

The collapse of the U.S.-led talks between Israel and the Palestinians is now complete. In the wake of the latest agreement between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, Israel has announced the termination of talks. The United States, true to its form, is backing the Israeli position. In so doing, we see yet another demonstration of why the process, as it has been constructed for two decades, cannot possibly lead to a resolution of this long and vexing conflict.

U.S. Angered and Confused

Starting with the United States, one need look no further than the statement made by State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki. “It is hard to see how Israel will negotiate with a government that does not recognize its right to exist,” Psaki said. “The Palestinian reconciliation deal raises concerns and could complicate the efforts to extend peace talks.”

Well, as it turns out, it led to the suspension, at least for now, of the effort by the U.S. to extend the talks, an effort that any U.S. citizen, whatever their politics, should find embarrassing. But let’s examine that statement. Why, one wonders, would Psaki find it so “hard to see” how an Israeli government could negotiate with a unified Palestinian one? It is not Hamas Israel would be negotiating with, for a start, but a representative Palestinian Authority. Indeed, one of Israel’s chief complaints has long been that even if they struck a deal with Abbas, it might not hold since he did not represent all of the Palestinian body politic as, for example, Benjamin Netanyahu does for the Israeli one. Continue reading

US on Israeli Settlements: A Policy Without A Policy

This article originally appeared at LobeLog. There is an indispensable wealth of material there on recent events in Israel/Palestine, Iran, Egypt and others. I urge you to check it out.

Some days, it must be really difficult to be the State Department’s spokesperson. It doesn’t seem like a bad job to have at all, but on certain questions it’s impossible to not look like an idiot. A lot of those questions are connected to de facto policies which differ from de jure ones.

Look up the hill from the West Bank town of Tuwani and you see the Israeli settlement, Maon

Look up the hill from the West Bank town of Tuwani and you see the Israeli settlement, Maon

And there is no better example of that than US policy on Israeli settlements.

Back in the early years after the 1967 war, the United States made it clear that the settlements were illegal according to international law. As recently as 1978, the State Department legal adviser confirmed that all Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line are illegal, and through the Carter administration, this was explicit US policy. That policy has never been explicitly revoked, but beginning with the Reagan administration, de facto policy has been ambiguous. Reagan began the trend when he stated that while the settlements were ill-advised, provocative and that further settlement was not necessary for Israel’s security “I disagreed when, the previous Administration refereed to them as illegal, they’re not illegal.  Not under the U.N. resolution that leaves the West Bank open to all people—Arab and Israeli alike, Christian alike.”

The problematic nature of Reagan’s statement — implying that “Arab” equals “Muslim” and “Israeli” equals “Jew”, and more importantly, citing the “U.N. Resolution”, which is not the basis for the illegality of the settlements (the Fourth Geneva Convention is) — notwithstanding, this was the beginning of the US’ refusal to label settlements illegal, terming them instead, at most, “illegitimate.” Continue reading