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The dangers of a weak peace

Hamas' rejection of any possibility of long lasting peace creates strong obstacle against regional stability

As the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams are having their initial meetings in Washington DC, the talks of a brokered peace agreement between Jewish State and the PA are once again gaining front page coverage.

 

If no one can argue about the added value of a long lasting peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the excitement surrounding the current dialogue needs to be deflated. An agreement of any sort involving both parties may have the short term effects of further endangering Israelis living within the range of Hamas rockets and emboldening regional terrorist groups who see in their state of war against Israel as their raison d’être.

 

Moreover, a disgruntled Palestinian society is unlikely to respond well to decisions taken by Mahmoud Abbas , widely perceived as an illegitimate leader.

 

Even if the chances remain quite slim, a weak peace agreement between Israel and the PA should not be regarded as a success but rather as a further complication to the overall resolution of a decade long conflict.

 

The reasons for this can be found in the core nature of the negotiating structure. The fact that the terrorist movement of Hamas rejects any possibility of long lasting peace creates a strong obstacle against regional stability, an obstacle which is only strengthened by Hezbollah ’s uncompromising hate for the Jewish State along with the inability of regional Arab and non-Arab powers to foster a serious peace-oriented discourse.

 

For this, any outcome leading to a deal sealed between the PA and Israel through Washington's support in the coming months needs to be considered as a danger-filled event as in the short term it may fuel more violence further threatening local populations.

 

The first and immediate risk comes from what may be defined as Hamas’ fight for existence. During the last few months, the Gaza-based terrorist group has suffered a number of setbacks due to the changing Egyptian situation. Its political legitimacy based on its self-defined notion of resistance against Israel has been weakened by the movement’s inability to lessen the Gaza economic and humanitarian hardships.

 

The group knows that any agreement reached by the PA with Israel may come as a further blow to its ability to maneuver in the region while a peace deal, as weak as it may be, will be increasingly marginalizing Hamas inside a sealed of Gaza strip.

 

For this, as it has been the case during previous negotiations, a rise in Hamas’ attempts to target Israeli civilian populations needs to be taken into serious consideration. Hamas understands that any Israeli military act of self-defense will be perceived as an aggression by the Palestinians and may derail peace talks or annul any achieved deal.

 

The second point that needs to be taken into account as a result of this situation refers to the possibility of increased violence among Palestinians and against Israeli forces and civilians in Judea and Samaria. The general cohesion that has been censed during the UN vote resulting in the nominal creation of a Palestinian State by the General Assembly should not be misread.

 

The Palestinian population residing in those regions has little respect for the PA and considers Mahmoud Abbas a Western puppet. Many commentators focus on the risk of a third intifada should the current negotiations fail to deliver. On the flip side, the following question should be raised: what if the Palestinians will not accept a deal brokered by the PA? A situation of chaos and violence in Judea and Samaria loosely organized to limit the viability of any deal is likely to come at high costs for Israel.

 

As Israel is appearing to be the actor making all the painful decisions, the Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria may as well consider that they could have gotten more out of the Jewish State, a further reason which is likely to incite violence.

 

The third risk deriving from a weak peace is embodied in the fact that even in the states having signed a formal peace deal with the Jewish State the local populations rarely accept such a status. From the anti-Semitic slogans branded by the Muslim Brothers to the numerous anti-Israeli events and protests that take place in Jordan, the overall feeling of the Arab Street is that peace with Israel is not the most favorable outcome to solve the Palestinian issue.

 

One can only imagine the outrage a peace deal involving only Israel and the PA could cause among Hezbollah operatives, Syrian jihadists and how much the Iranian government would try to undermine any efforts made in Washington by further agitating a fragile region.

 

These three points should not be interpreted as a way to dismiss the current peace efforts. Prime Minister Netanyahu is showing political realism and courage in the steps he is undertaking. Nevertheless, the US administration and the involved parties need to openly state that any agreement with the PA cannot be considered final as long as core spoilers are not neutralized. For this, international action must be taken against Hamas and Hezbollah while efforts must be made to include Arab powers in the negotiations in order to provide any outcome with increased legitimacy in the eyes of Israel’s neighbors.

 

Riccardo Dugulin holds a Master degree from the Paris School of International Affairs (Sciences Po) and is specialized in International Security. He is currently working in Paris for a medical and security assistance company. He has worked for a number of leading think tanks in Washington DC, Dubai and Beirut. His personal website is www.riccardodugulin.com

 

 

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פרסום ראשון: 08.03.13, 10:37
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