Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert enjoyed periods of rule during which the Palestinians, or to be more accurate Fatah and Hamas, have been divided. The divisions which started in 2007 have remained largely intact since then and through pretty turbulent times in the Middle East. Repeated attempts at reconciliation under the auspices of a number of Arab countries failed. That is until President Abbas realised that the ‘peace talks’ were faltering and Israel was acting to ensure they failed.
Events moved quickly then and suddenly the two factions came to what seemed an uncomfortable truce. This was the. Quickly followed with the announcement of a Palestinian Unity Government, which had no partisan ministers. Netanyahu had to quickly invent the phrase ‘backed by Hamas’ as he could not say including Hamas. Either way Netanyahu quickly demonstrated that who ever sat in front of him from the Palestinian side either to administer the territories or to negotiate was not acceptable. In fact anything resembling a just peace would be unacceptable.
Netanyahu’s attempts to pressure the International Community to boycott the new Government failed because his actions during the talks had even pushed the Americans to the limit. They deiced to work with the new Government and to judge it by its actions. That continued until three Israelis went missing in the West Bank, hitch hiking back to their homes.
Israel responded as expected, with intimidation and collective punishment of the Palestinians in Hebron but then more widely in the West Bank and even in Gaza. The claim was that the Israelis were taken by Hamas in the West Bank. This, five days later is still unproven. Even Abbas is warning of consequences to the reconciliation deal if it is proven that Hamas was behind the incident.
Abbas has appealed for the release of the settlers and warned of the dire consequences to the Palestinain Authority of failure to do so speedily. Netanyahu responded with his usual arrogance, belittling this effort despite the acknowledgement of good cooperation between the two security forces. He has called on Abbas to end the unity Government as a demonstration of his seriousness. But Netanyahu can hardly place the blame for the incident on the Unity Government. It has only been place for days, has ministers with no political affiliation and Abbas said it was following his policies. So why call for its end? What would this achieve?
The division between Hamas and Fatah has for years resulted in a low cost occupation and a lack of seriousness, to put it mildly, by Israel to negotiate for peace. The recent incident in Hebron and Israel’s reaction can easily trigger a third intifada. That will further unite the Palestinians.
Netanyahu is on a run of failed policies including that of rallying support for an attack on Iran. His attempt to drive a wedge between Hamas and Fatah seems to be a continuation of his recent failure. It looks like the divide and rule policy is also unravelling.