The Israeli raid on the flotilla of humanitarian aid headed for Gaza dealt a blow to chances for a breakthrough in the peace process. As the U.S. administration struggles to keep indirect talks alive, Michele Dunne prescribes a different approach. It is clear that a two-state solution requires reconciliation between Palestinian factions and reunification of the West Bank and Gaza. Dunne recommends that the United States should support Palestinian institution building and be open to political competition, including elections.

Recommendations for the United States

  • Build lasting Palestinian institutions as Israeli-Palestinian negotiations proceed. The United States should move beyond a short-term perspective that pushes for a deal between Israel and the Palestinians while blocking the emergence of functioning and representative Palestinian institutions.
  • Signal openness to Palestinian reconciliation. The rift between Fatah and Hamas paralyzes politics and hurdles to reconciliation should be removed. While this does not mean the United States should directly engage Hamas, the organization cannot be starved out of existence or political relevance—as has been made clear over the last three years.  
  • Support the resumption of politics. The United States should stop constraining or manipulating Palestinian politics and support inclusive legislative and presidential elections. As long as Palestinian leaders are ready to negotiate with Israel and prevent violence, the United States should look for ways to continue cooperation with and assistance to a Palestinian Authority, even one that includes Hamas.

“By allowing political competition in the Palestinian territories, the United States can help lay the groundwork necessary for a lasting peace settlement,” writes Dunne. “And Israel can have faith that a Palestinian negotiating partner possesses enough popular support to make agreements and uphold them.”