Leaders of the two main rival Palestinian political groups, Fatah and Hamas have met in Moscow where they agreed to form a unity ‘all-Palestine’ government.
Although many symbolic talks between Fatah and Hamas have resulted in meaningless deadlock, today’s agreement could pave the way for a future peace conference between a united Palestine and Israel.
In a further blow to US regional prestige, it is clear that in respect of Palestine both main factions as well as smaller Palestinian parties see Moscow’s approach to the conflict as one that offers an even hand with a pragmatic goal; a penultimate resolution to this seemingly never ending conflict.
For Israel’s part, Tel Aviv has numerous trade deals with Russia, the importance of which has only been strengthened by anti-Russian EU sanctions. With Moscow seen as a crucial partner but importantly, also an impartial arbiter by both sides, there may be a chance to reach a meaningful settlement that thus far the US has only made increasingly unworkable.
Palestinian sources cite Donald Trump’s recent election as one of the motivations to create a united front. However, in spite of Donald Trump’s rhetorically unambiguous support of Israel, like with many things concerning Trump, his business acumen and pragmatic approach to geo-political conflicts, could work in the best interests of all sides in the conflict.
An important parallel can be derived from an understanding of the trilateral peace conference for Syria, which is about to take place in Astana. There, Russia, Iran and Turkey set out clear goals to create a lasting peace in Syria. In spite of Turkey’s well known support of jihadist terrorist groups in Syria, Ankara too – at least on paper – has signed up to the common pledge to respect Syria’s territorial integrity and her legitimate government.
Were Moscow to organise a peace conference on the Israel-Palestine conflict, as Russia has wanted to do for some time, one could envisage a similar scenario.
In such a situation, there could be a Russian drafted agreement signed off for by a united Palestinian leadership and an Israeli government, with the US more or less agreeing to the terms without having an active hand in overseeing let alone enforcing the agreement.
Not only is this now plausible under a Trump Presidency, but it would help legitimise the agreement in the eyes of most Palestinians and even many Israelis who have felt equally let down by the Obama administration.
The template is there, and Russia’s role as a leading geo-political mediator is now beyond doubt.
Will the US impede or accept this new reality?
This is in the hands of Donald Trump, a pragmatist far more trustworthy than Obama the ideologue.