WASHINGTON, Jan 23—It will be impossible to manage, much less resolve, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict while ignoring Hamas. The Obama administration should use diplomacy to restore a livable situation for the present, and at a later date move back toward longer-term diplomacy, Nathan J. Brown explains in a new commentary.

Key Conclusions:

  • The “West Bank First” strategy of building up the Ramallah-based government is not working. Palestinians in the West Bank have seen only modest improvements in living standards and security with no sign at all that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank will end.
  • Elections will not outmaneuver Hamas. Elections cannot be held in Gaza without Hamas’ cooperation—which they are unlikely to give if the deck is stacked against them. And there is no guarantee they will lose.
  • Fatah has shown no signs of rebuilding or reforming itself after its electoral rebuke in 2006. Their leaders have focused on short-term solutions and returning to power.
  • Donors or actors looking to work with the Palestinian Authority and avoid Hamas in Gaza have forgotten that in Gaza, Hamas is the Palestinian Authority.
  • Soft-liners are unlikely to split from Hamas. Public disagreements within Hamas do occur on occasion but schisms are almost unknown.

Brown concludes:

“There may be no Nobel Prize to be had here, but making sure the real negotiations succeed—and then immediately worrying about the next step—is a far more promising approach than pretending that the parties can be cajoled, muscled, and jawboned into a final and comprehensive settlement under current conditions.”

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NOTES

  • Nathan J. Brown is director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University, a nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, and a distinguished scholar and author of four well-received books on Arab politics.
  • Carnegie's Arab Reform Bulletin has been transformed into a full-featured website that offers greatly enhanced search functionality, the option for readers to comment on articles, and frequent news updates.