The full significance of the reconciliation deal struck between Hamas and Fatah on Wednesday in Egypt has yet to be fully realised.
The deal clearly has not been rushed into by any of the parties and all are fully aware of the consequences the new alliance will bring, not just to the Palestinians, but also to the Egyptians whose borders adjoin both Israel and the Gaza Strip. Indeed, as part of the deal, Egypt has already opened its border with the Gaza Strip to allow free access between the two for trade and travel, a move likely to anger the Israelis who have strived for years to economically and socially strangle the Gaza Strip in their efforts to destroy Hamas.
Egypt’s new relationship with the Palestinians may also be seen as a foretaste of the relationship a post-Mubarak Egypt will likely have with Israel. The new Egyptian mood is sympathetic to the Palestinians plight both in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. Now that the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip has been opened allowing trade, it will not be long before the people of the Gaza will actually be better off than the people in the West Bank which for now remains under continued occupation by the Israelis.
Israel’s knee jerk reaction to the reconciliation deal and the opening of the border could well be to formally annex the areas of the West Bank that contain Israeli settlements together with the Jordan Valley with the threat of eventually annexing all of the West Bank, and possibly to invade and occupy the Gaza Strip claiming that they have done so in order to stop weapons being delivered to Hamas. Both of these possible Israeli actions would effectively be a declaration of war against the Palestinians especially if the Israelis were to fully occupy all of the West Bank in order to stop Hamas activity particularly after Fatah have released the Hamas prisoners they are holding.
The problem for Netanyahu is to assess how quickly he needs to act before the West and the rest of the world becomes convinced that the reconciliation has some merit and accepts the new alliance. This would be a disaster for the Zionists of Israel. While the US may suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority as a result of the alliance – a consequence the new alliance would have taken into consideration – there could well be sources of aid from elsewhere that maybe forthcoming. There is no single nation that could afford the kind of aid the US currently provides the Palestinians, which averages about $400 million per year over the last five years, but a group of nations together providing aid either in cash or kind could easily thwart the effect the US cessation of aid will have.
Another big worry for the Zionists of Israel is the possibility that the alliance, once having being accepted by most of the world, could unilaterally declare statehood claiming sovereignty over all of the West Bank, including the settlements and all other occupied areas of the West Bank, back to the pre-1967 line.
The bottom line now is that Israel is in a very tricky spot and has been backed into a corner. So far, all is quiet on the Israel-Palestine front, but it will be interesting to see how long the quiet lasts before the entire region explodes. And, if Israel’s Zionists want to hang on to their dream of a Greater Israel that includes, at least, the West Bank, then the explosion will be very soon.
As I said, the full significance of the reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah is not yet realised.