Hamas-Fatah unity accords, including those negotiated by the Saudis, have been announced several times before and frizzled overnight. Until now, Teheran has been opposed to Hamas reconciliation with Fatah, and Abbas has been arresting, not coddling, Hamas activists in the West Bank. So this accord may amount to nothing.
If the unity accord takes root, however, there are many severe and game-changing security/diplomatic implications for Israel:
1. The terms of such an accord would undoubtedly include Egyptian agreement to open its border with Gaza, which has been one of Hamas’ key demands. This has wild implications for the import of Iranian weapons into Gaza, and would put the next Israel-Hamas clash on the fast-track.
2. The accord reportedly includes a military chapter. Will Hamas be integrated into the PA security apparatus? If so, Israel-PA security cooperation inevitably will come grinding to a halt, and so could the PA’s economic growth.
3. The heart of the reported accord is an agreement for mutual Hamas-Fatah prisoner releases, and for integration of Hamas into PLO parent institutions. What will the release of Hamas activists in the West Bank mean for Israeli security? What will Hamas involvement in PLO party organs mean for Fatah’s sustainability as a party that favors reconciliation with Israel?
4. Hamas is openly committed to Israel’s destruction; its charter is violently anti-Semitic; it possesses significant military capabilities that are in violation of every Palestinian accord with Israel; and it says that its army units are aimed at “liberating” all of Israel. What diplomatic concessions could Netanyahu possibly offer the PA now, in any American-brokered negotiations, which would head off confrontation with the unified PA in the fall after a Palestinian declaration of independence or after UN recognition of statehood? (Abbas will feel strengthened going to the UN claiming to represent all Palestinians, including Gaza). What Israeli leader, from Labor to Kadima to Likud, could advocate West Bank withdrawals to anything near the 1949 lines in such grim circumstances?
5. What does all this mean for the negotiations to free Gilad Shalit? Might this improve the chances of his release, or bury them? It is harder than ever to see how Israel could now release 1,000 Hamas terrorists into the West Bank…
6. What are Israel’s options? One option is acquiescence to Palestinian and international demands for immediate Palestinian statehood and the start of long negotiations over withdrawals, security borders and guarantees. I think it highly unlikely that the Netanyahu government (or any other Israeli government) would agree to this in the present circumstances. Already this morning, Hamas made it clear that it will not support any negotiations with Israel or accept the Quartet’s well-known conditions. (It is counting on the Quartet to back down from its conditions). The other Israeli alternative is to hunker down; call for national unity in Israel; to tell the Israeli public that “blood, sweat and tears” will be necessary to withstand the ill winds of change billowing around Israel — from Cairo, Damascus, Gaza and Ramallah; to call upon Israel’s friends in Washington, Ottawa and elsewhere to stand by Israel in this time of testing; and to quietly prepare Israel for war. I suspect that Netanyahu will use his upcoming Yom Haatzmaut and Knesset speeches, and then his planned Congressional speech, to do the latter.