RAMALLAH – The rollout of the war-ending ceasefire agreement between Israel and Palestine last month was impressive. With almost perfect synchronization, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the end of the war on Gaza in a televised broadcast from his Ramallah headquarters, while Hamas leaders called on Palestinians in Gaza to take to the streets to celebrate their supposed victory.
Of course, with more than 2,200 Palestinians – mostly civilians – killed, over 10,000 injured, and thousands of homes, schools, mosques, and other structures destroyed, the war’s outcome can hardly be called a victory. Nonetheless, this is the first time that Palestinians have been able to create something close to mutual deterrence with the Israelis.
Strengthening Palestine’s position further is the United Nations General Assembly’s recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state, which Palestinian diplomats can use to exert political pressure on Israel to take their national aspirations seriously. Palestine’s membership in UN agencies, not to mention the possibility of joining the International Criminal Court, has also boosted its leaders’ bargaining power.
All of these levers – not to mention the tremendous sympathy and support Palestinians have received from international observers – will be essential to ensure that the high price Palestinians paid during the 51-day war was not in vain. But the levers will be useless if the leaders of Hamas and Fatah, the two dominant Palestinian factions, fail to maintain a united front.