It was even looking like they were going to get support and declare their own state. The infrastructure was almost there, support was growing, the international aid was pouring in.
The announcement last night that a unity government had been agreed to again all but sealed it – the Palestinians are finally united. It would be far harder (but still possible) for Israel to claim that there was no one to negotiate with anymore.
The deal brings with it the risk of alienating the Western support that the Palestinian Authority has enjoyed. Azzam al-Ahmad, the Fatah negotiator, said that Salam Fayyad, the prime minister in the West Bank who is despised by Hamas, would not be part of the interim government. It is partly because of Mr. Fayyad, and the trust he inspires in Washington, that hundreds of millions of dollars are provided annually to the Palestinian Authority by Congress. Without that aid, the Palestinian Authority would face great difficulties.
Fayyad is the reason the PA are in the position where they can be talking about statehood. All of the positive developments – from the economy to the roads to the law enforcement to the security – all of them, are because of his competent management of the PA.
Doing any kind of deal with Hamas is a risk to say the least – Hamas have been amping-up aggression recently and are still rejected by most Western countries. They could maybe have pulled it off, but if they allow Hamas to pressure them into firing Fayyad, there is no way that this will get anywhere. The last “unity government” ended in a civil conflict that killed more people than were killed in Gaza during Cast-Lead. I see little reason why this would be any different.