WASHINGTON, June 3—Efforts to move the Israeli–Palestinian peace process forward will fail if the United States continues to marginalize or ignore Hamas. A national unity government—which would require a slower approach to the peace process than the Obama administration would like and depends on difficult concessions—is the only promising solution, explains a new commentary by Nathan Brown.

Key Conclusions:

  • The split between the Palestinian factions—Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in Ramallah—has no easy solution.
  • Elections will likely be an outcome of reconciliation, rather than the means to achieve it. Elections face almost insurmountable logistical and legal challenges, and even if Fatah and Hamas were to agree on the conditions, Israeli cooperation would be required.
  • There is little hope for removing Hamas from power in Gaza. Previous policies aimed at doing so—an economic blockade, U.S. security assistance to Fatah, and Israeli military action—have failed.
  • Neither Hamas nor Fatah are anxious for a national unity government. A sustained and coordinated effort by international actors—particularly the United States, Europe, and Egypt—is needed to break the stalemate.

Brown concludes:

“The new leadership in Washington is refreshingly bold in its tactics but far more conventional in its strategies. Its new approach (especially on settlements) has already attracted attention in the region. But thus far its public policy toward Gaza remains unrealistic: demanding that Hamas change and treating the movement as if it does not exist until it does so. It is difficult to envision how the Obama administration’s initiatives can gain full traction until it develops more realistic ideas on Gaza."



  • 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.
  • The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, socio-political, and strategic interests in the Arab world to provide analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region.
  • Carnegie's Arab Reform Bulletin offers a monthly analysis of political and economic developments in Arab countries.