Shockingly, in spite of the royal wedding which occupied the attention of the world (or at least its media outlets), significant events did indeed occur outside of London. The two major political groups in Palestine, Hamas and Fatah, have come to a reconciliation deal to form a coalition government. OK, so the deal happened prior to the wedding proper, but right in the throngs of the sensation.
Since 2007, the secular Fatah has been running the West Bank while the not-quite-so secular Hamas has been in charge of Gaza. The reconciliation was inspired, of course, by the regional unrest overtaking various regimes across the Middle East and North Africa.
While the two groups themselves don’t appear to fully grasp what the partnership will entail, this will surely prove problematic for Israel for a whole host of reasons. The first is that a unified Palestinian government will be much stronger at the negotiating table, which is a sure concern for Israel’s current right-wing government. The move also solidifies Palestine’s bid for statehood recognition at the UN set for this September, which would be a major loss for Israel.
The deal itself is not Israel’s only cause for concern. Fatah and Hamas negotiators met secretly in Cairo. Egypt has traditionally been sympathetic to Israeli causes, but the ousting of Hosni Mubarak has entirely realigned the country’s foreign policy. The Egyptians also took the opportunity to announce the opening of the Gaza border, which has been closed for 30 years, drawing heavy criticism from Israel. Both developments are indicative of a new Egyptian foreign policy which is rapidly moving away from its Western-approved predecessor under Mubarak. Meanwhile, Cairo appears to be cozying up to Syria and Iran as well.
The implication of all these moves is an increasingly anti-Israel stance, a worry for both Israel and the United States. Israeli relations with the new Egypt were plagued from the start, since Israel was firmly against the revolution. The United States, for its part, never opposed the uprising, but decades of friendliness with President Mubarak certainly don’t endear Americans to the Egypt (not to mention the nagging tendency of trying to take credit for their revolution).
We seem be witnessing an Egypt which will seek to assert itself as a regional leader and resist pressure from the West. It is, however, a little tougher to know what that will mean for the future of American involvement in the Middle East, and perhaps more significantly, the Israeli peace process.