For starters, Jodi Rudoren has probably written the best analysis of the Fatah-Hamas unity agreement here. The political ramifications of the peace talks in Israel have seldom been discussed in the American media, and it’s good to finally see it get prominent mention.
The first eight months of these peace talks went by relatively smoothly. Looking back and surmising, this is probably because little progress was being made. This ended in late March, but not in the name of progress: Israel refused to go through with the fourth and final prisoner release, whose emotional resonance on both sides undergirded these talks.
At this point, it’s pretty easy to come up with a picture of what happened. Naftali Bennett came to the conclusion that either, a) his party could not withstand the political cost a fourth release, or b) it was time that Bayit Yehudi demonstrated its power in the coalition. He succeeded. Netanyahu capitulated–––perhaps even happily. The Kerry process is dead, and no Martin Indyk Heimlich maneuver is going to save it.
But it’s not only Bennett, who I indeed hold primarily responsible for the collapse along with fellow Bayit Yehudi MK and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who has benefited. Netanyahu now faces a significantly subdued Likud insurgency who would rather win the next election handily than cause trouble over peace talks that *might* restart and *might* succeed.
Yet the consequences of this agreement do not stop at the rightmost corner of the Knesset. Tzipi Livni, the most dovish member of Netanyahu’s cabinet, voted to suspend talks with the Palestinians and demanded Hamas accept the Quartet principles. Earlier today Yair Lapid, writing on TIME.com, expressed similar sentiment and condemned Hamas as “a Jihadist terror organization whose express purpose is to kill and maim Jews simply because they’re Jews.”
In sum, in addition to alienating the United States and uniting Israel’s right-wing, President Abbas has shunned the very Israeli centrists who were keeping the talks alive. The talks may very well have failed regardless, but Abbas has done much damage to a negotiated a two-state solution by signing an inherently controversial unity agreement before the talks expired. More thoughts on this later.