Destroying the Negotiations

Destroying the Negotiations

By BG Israela Oron, Maariv

29.04.14
 
 
The agreement that was signed this week between the Fatah and Hamas movements gave Israel the opportunity to put into practice what is known in the military as "automatic fire" or "a planned ambush." Israel jumped at the opportunity and rushed to announce the immediate suspension of the peace talks with the Palestinians. One of the central arguments in recent years of those who oppose the peace talks is that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) did not represent the whole Palestinian people, that he only represented the West Bank supporters of Fatah. If the agreement that was signed between Fatah and Hamas is indeed implemented, a future agreement signed between Israel and a Palestinian Authority representing the entire Palestinian population, would have much greater validity. 
 
Israel must evaluate the nature of the agreement between Israel and Hamas: Will it bring about a total surrender of Fatah to the dictates of Hamas, or will Hamas be willing to accept the three conditions of the Quartet and take part in negotiations. The most reasonable scenario is that if this agreement, unlike its predecessors, is implemented, it will be a compromise between the positions of the two camps. At this stage it seems that Fatah has a better chance of dictating the compromise between the two camps, and would have an even better chance of doing so if there was progress in the negotiations with Israel.
 
In the event that Hamas opposes the negotiations because it is not prepared to recognize the State of Israel, and certainly not as a Jewish state, Abu Mazen will have to decide whether to continue negotiating and will have to choose between reconciliation with Hamas and an agreement with Israel. That would be the appropriate time for Israel to present an ultimatum on stopping the talks. The rushed decision to suspend the talks as an automatic step makes us, and not the Palestinians, the intransigent party. Israel should have analyzed the nature of the compromise between Fatah and Hamas and planned a rational and well thought out response which would serve its real interests.  Israel must ask itself which scenario would be better: An agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which would gain wider legitimacy amongst the Palestinian public; or a total suspension of the talks between the two sides.
  
To the observer from the side, it would seem that the government of Israel sat and waited for an opportunity to torpedo the talks and suddenly an excellent opportunity presented itself. The internal Palestinian reconciliation agreement allowed Israel to accuse Abu Mazen of partnering with terrorists and to announce a suspension of the talks. Even assuming that the government's aim was to prevent Fatah and Hamas from drawing closer to each other, there was no logic behind torpedoing the talks. The opposite is true – Israel should have continued with the talks to make it harder for the two camps to draw closer. Logic requires that you first decide on an objective and then take action. It would seem that the government's main goal was to destroy the talks.
 
BG (res.) Israel Oron served as the Deputy Head of the National Security Council and is one of the heads of the Geneva Initiative.