How the Arab Spring Will Shape Hamas

By Zvi Bar'el
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A different dilemma faces the Quartet, which finds itself entangled between a stubborn right-wing Israeli government and a PLO that sees the only solution in United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state.

So far, the Quartet has been able to keep the Security Council from granting recognition and to pressure the parties into meaningful negotiations. This position has leaned in part on what was considered an unbridgeable division between Gaza and the West Bank, between Hamas and Fateh. The formal pretext was that since the PLO did not represent Gaza, it could not claim that it represented the entire Palestinian state.

This pretext has been crumbling since the Palestinian reconciliation agreement was signed. And now that the Quartet deadline for reaching a negotiated agreement on the next stage of Israeli-Palestinian talks has passed, it looks like the UN will need to deal with a conflict that was once managed locally between Egypt, Israel, the United States and the Palestinians, with the Quartet relegated to the role of spectator.

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A few months ago, when revolutionary movements in some Arab states had amazed the world's leadership with their courage and insistence on toppling dictatorial regimes, little if any attention was paid to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now, when Egypt is struggling to maintain a modicum of law and order, Tunisia is trying to find its path between conflicting ideologies, and Syria is in shambles, it is the Palestinians who may reap the major benefits of the Arab spring.

However, for Hamas' change of mind and Palestinian reconciliation to become useful tools in the peace process, there is a need for a new approach by the members of the Quartet toward a 'new' PLO that comprises Hamas and toward the idea of an independent Palestinian state. That is, if the international community decides to align itself with the real domino effect that was launched by the Arab spring.

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Zvi Bar'el is analyst for Middle East affairs of Haaretz Daily. His book, 'When Cars Fell from Heaven' (in Hebrew) was published last year.

This piece was originally published on Bitter Lemons and is reprinted with permission © bitterlemons.org

(AP Photo)

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