Since all has been quiet on the Israeli-Palestinian front lately, Hamas and Fatah have decided to duke it out amongst themselves for supremacy. As of right now, the new status quo is to have the West Bank under Fatah control and Gaza ruled by Hamas.
What does this mean for Israel and for the Middle East? It's tough to say if this is a good development or a bad one for Israel. On one hand, when the Palestinians are fighting themselves, they aren't fighting Israel. On the other, is this just creating extremism in one more part of their neighborhood, like what happened with Hezbollah in Lebanon in the 1980s?
I think that while it's a short-term positive for Israel, it's not in their best interest for this to continue. The reason for this is because of that extremism. It was good for Israel initially to have the PLO, Druze, Maronites, Shiites, and Sunnis all fighting each other in Lebanon for a few years - the PLO was busy protecting their interests in Lebanon and not as interested in destroying Israel, however things took a turn for the worse when a new generation of fighters rose up from the ashes of that conflict to turn against Israel, dragging them into a conflict that they couldn't win. This is a disturbing development in that sense for a couple of reasons. One is that this Lebanon could threaten to engulf not just Gaza but also the West Bank, throwing chaos into the mix on two sides of the country. Second is that these Palestinian groups are already somewhat radicalized and for them to fight each other now means that they don't know what else to do. The Palestinians have been fighting the fight in one way or another for over 50 years, with Arab nations confining them to refugee camps in part to keep them marginalized, part to keep them radicalized, like keeping a pit bull in a cage and feeding it just enough to keep it alive. When they broke out (somewhat), they got their own nation, or a part of it and thought "what do we do now?" A whole society has grown up exploited and fighting for survival and I don't know if they can change. The younger generation has a chance, but even if Hamas and Fatah end up compromising and recreating some sort of coalition government, others will come along. It seems almost as if it is the lot of the Palestinians to be a destabilizing force in the Middle East. There is, of course, always a chance that something may change, but for now I don't see a way for them to break this cycle of violence. In order for peace to ever have a chance the Palestinian problem has to be resolved and not by Israel, Syria, Egypt, or anyone else. At this point in time the ball is in the Palestinians' court. They have to take the lead.
*Visit the New York Times for some fantastic pictures of the recent problems in Gaza