The announcement last week of a power-sharing accord between the Palestinian militant group Hamas and its more secular rival Fatah is just one in a series of developments that could change the status quo in one of the world’s highest profile conflicts. Though details are unresolved, the pact includes a commitment to fix a date for new elections. The reconciliation agreement was reached as Palestinian diplomats and their supporters have been pushing for the United Nations to formally recognize a Palestinian state, which the General Assembly may consider in September.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been invited to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in May, around the same time that President Obama is expected to give a major address on Washington’s Middle East policy. Overshadowing those developments are the revolts in nations across the Middle East, particularly the ongoing transition in Egypt, which has a key peace agreement with Israel. It was a measure of Egypt’s importance in the region that the Fatah-Hamas talks were brokered in secret by the Egyptians. “The Palestinian Authority needs to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas,” Netanyahu said moments before the Palestinian accord was announced. “Peace with both is impossible.”