Wednesday, Oct 26, 2016
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United front

A new Palestinian Authority “unity” government is made up of representatives of Fatah, based in the West Bank, and Hamas, based in Gaza. Despite the potential obstacles it presents, the united front could contribute to the effort to find agreement on a two-state solution in the Middle East.

An American attempt to broker an accord between Israel and Palestinians, restarted by Secretary of State John Kerry last year, has been hampered by the lack of agreement between the two main Palestinian elements. Fatah is led by acting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas has its own leadership. Mr. Kerry may have sought, behind the scenes, a line of communications to Hamas, which represents a large number of Palestinians. Hamas won the most recent Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006.

If Secretary Kerry can get Israeli and Palestinian negotiators back to the bargaining table, there now seems less of a possibility that the Palestinian position will suffer from division, or that Hamas will reject whatever the two sides can agree to. This change, in principle, should improve prospects for success in the negotiations, which are critical to long-term peace in the Middle East and the world.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu complains that expecting Israel to negotiate with a Palestinian delegation that includes Hamas — which holds a number of hostile positions toward Israel — is unacceptable. The Obama Administration has not taken that position. But if Israel is serious about wanting peace with the Palestinians, it would seem in its interest that Fatah and Hamas are now able to offer a unified position in the negotiations.

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