The division between Fatah and Hamas in the Palestinian camp has been a barrier in the talks with the Israelis to the successful outcome that the United States seeks — two states, living side by side, recognized and in peace. But now their reconciliation has prompted Israel to suspend its participation in the talks.
Fatah and Hamas announced Wednesday in Gaza City that they were ending their seven-year rift. An estimated 2.7 million Palestinians live in the Fatah-governed West Bank and 1.7 million in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, considered by the United States and Israel to be a terrorist organization. The reconciliation comes under the umbrella of the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, now 79.
The Palestinians plan to establish a unity government in five weeks, with the intention of scheduling long-postponed elections for December. The victory of Hamas over Fatah in the 2006 elections led to the 2007 split between them. Mr. Abbas has been acting president since his term ended in 2009.
Secretary of State John Kerry has known since he launched his major effort in July last year to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that without Hamas at the table the Palestinians would not be able to present a unified position to the Israelis in the talks. Nonetheless, he accepted Israeli opposition to his establishing lines of communication to Hamas.
The Israelis’ response Thursday to the reconciliation announcement was to suspend the peace talks, expressing indignation at the Palestinian coalition’s inclusion of Hamas. The Israeli reaction was an indication of how seriously it takes the Palestinians’ having closed the gap in the front they will present to the Israelis and Americans in the future.
Despite this new development, there is every reason for the United States to demand and expect the Palestinians and Israelis to resume and continue the negotiations. Both sides have high stakes in achieving peace for their people.