The Passover holiday just came to a close and the Palestinians have once again surprised us. Last night all the news discussions were focused on how Netanyahu was going to navigate within his coalition– would he reach an agreement to extend the negotiations or was he not do so. Then tonight Hamas and Fatah announced they had reached an agreement to form a National Unity government. For the moment the negotiations that were scheduled to resume tonight have been cancelled.
What does this mean? In a world that seems to change from moment to moment it would be very hard to predict the future. However, a few things need to be taken in account. On one hand, this is not the first time (nor the second time) an agreement was reached between Hamas and Fatah at ending their split. In the past, every time an agreement was reached it was never implemented. Things are slightly different this time, as Hamas is particularly weak and friendless. On the other hand, Hamas has never shown willingness to make any sort of idealogical concessions to be part of the government.
The Israeli government is very concerned that this move will, once again, give Hamas a foot in the door in the West Bank. While the American have responded with cautious optimism, saying "they welcome the move, IF Hamas accepts all of the terms of the Quartet– which they have never accepted in the past. The timing of this recent move is particularly suspicious. Why is this happening right now? My guess is that Abbas wanted to force Israel to break up the talks, and thus he would not be responsible for doing so. This is obviously just a guess.
This evening part of an interview was aired featuring Yasser Arafat's bodyguard (one who was always with him and has been silent for 11 years). The interview was conducted by Al Aribiya network. In it the bodyguard was asked about Arafat's reputation for lying. The bodyguard clearly confirmed that Arafat did indeed lie a great deal, defending Arafat's actions by stating as a matter-of-fact that one is allowed to lie for three reasons– diplomacy, women (e.g. saying how pretty you look) and in negotiations. He continued, giving the example of when a suicide bomber would set off his explosive device in Tel Aviv, Arafat who would say how good that was, and then go before international TV and condemn the act. My Grandfather (who has been gone for 42 years) used to tell me that the problem with the lies the Arabs tell is that they soon believed their own lies.
Steimatzky, the venerable Israeli book chain was sold today. It was owned by an investment fund and was sold for one quarter of what they paid for it. The bookstore chain has been on the verge of bankruptcy for the past few weeks. In today's world, it's not clear to me how Steimanzky and its competitor (Tzomet Tsfarim) can operate so many stores. Though, then again, Amazon is not really here yet.