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Hebrew media review

Little faith, lots to say

The Hamas-Fatah deal and plans for the US and Israel to pull out of UNESCO are big news, but not everyone believes they will come to fruition

Khaled Fawzi (3rd-L) head of the Egyptian Intelligence services, shares a laugh with Hamas leader Izzat al-Rishq (2nd-L) and Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmad (C) following the signing of a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017. (AFP / KHALED DESOUKI)
Khaled Fawzi (3rd-L) head of the Egyptian Intelligence services, shares a laugh with Hamas leader Izzat al-Rishq (2nd-L) and Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmad (C) following the signing of a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017. (AFP / KHALED DESOUKI)

Big things supposedly happened over the holiday in Israel, between Fatah and Hamas reaching a historic reconciliation deal and the US (and if so Israel) pulling out of the UN’s cultural body.

Papers on Friday, though, are not 100 percent sold, and in some cases show little faith in how much change on the ground the big words batted around Thursday will actually translate into.

Yedioth Ahronoth calls the pact bringing the rival Palestinian factions together a “partial agreement” and a “reconciliation full of holes,” running a large graphic showing all the things still left in the air, from security arrangements to the fate of the Palestinian parliament and Hamas men in West Bank prisons.

The deal doesn’t stand a chance, writes analyst Alex Fishman. “Most of the clauses of the agreement signed on yesterday need to be worked on by committees, most of which have no deadline. So, for instance, the future of government officials in Gaza will be worked on by a panel that is supposed to hand over its recommendations in another four months — a Middle Eastern-type victory,” he writes.

Similarly, in Israel Hayom, Daniel Serouti calls the agreement “only for the cameras,” looking at past attempts at rapprochement that were never actually carried out.

“Many think that this time, like past times, the deal is doomed to fail. Real reconciliation between the hawks? Time will tell,” he writes.

Haaretz is much more bullish on the deal, devoting its top story and several inside pages to the agreement, with pundits writing more about the pressures that forced the parties into the deal and how it will look on the ground rather than trying to cast doubts over it.

Analyst Jacky Khoury writes that Hamas and Fatah were both pushed from the outside — Hamas by the Palestinian Authority and Egypt, which helped squeeze the Strip into unbearable living conditions, and Fatah by the lack of movement on any other sort of deal.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, 83, and Fatah understand that in the near future they have nothing to offer the Palestinian people regarding the peace process, in view of the statements made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his cabinet. If there is any chance that US President Donald Trump can be trusted to come up with an effective peace plan, Abbas cannot afford to speak only for the West Bank,” he writes. “In view of this scenario, the reconciliation seems like the only option open to Abbas and Fatah. So the agreement is mainly a confluence of interests, best described as follows: The PA and Fatah will rule above ground and Hamas will rule under ground.”

The tabloids’ lack of faith in the agreement generally echoes that of the Israeli government’s past dismissal of the efforts, but pundits take note of the fact that now that a deal was actually announced, Israel seems to have shifted to a more serious and less aggressive tone against the deal.

“Two weeks ago when the reconciliation talks began, Jerusalem may have thought that they were just more empty talks that would amount to nothing, as has happened quite a few times before. Now Israel recognizes that this time is more serious,” Barak Ravid writes in Haaretz. “Israel had and has all the means to sabotage the move, but has chosen not to do so. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman fully understand that when both Trump and al-Sissi support internal Palestinian reconciliation, there’s not much to be done about it. All that remains is for them to complain quietly and hope the Palestinians prove once again that they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, and that they will thwart the agreement on their own.

In Yedioth Ahronoth, Ben-Dror Yemini writes that Israel would be fully justified in bashing the deal for various reasons, but would be smart to keep quiet this time around.

“The last thing Israel needs now is more statements that will turn it into a refuser and an extremist opposite the Palestinians who may, just may, make a unity bid for peace talks. One of Israel’s excuses for freezing peace efforts was Palestinian diffusion, so now there is one Palestinian entity. It’s possible it will only last a few weeks or months, but until it happens, there is a united Palestinian entity,” he writes.

The positions between the tabloids and Haaretz are somewhat switched when it comes to the US decision to leave UNESCO over its anti-Israel bias, and the possibility that Israel will follow suit. Haaretz is the one to cast doubts over the move this time, noting that the US said it will stay engaged with the agency, and that Israel’s own announcement was cautious and not a clear indication at all that it actually intends to quit the body.

“A senior Israeli official explained that the door remains open on Israel staying in UNESCO, saying that withdrawal process from the organization is not immediate, and involves a process of at least a year. In the case of the US, the withdrawal process will take until December 2018,” the paper reports. “If the United States changes its mind about UNESCO within another year and two months because of a change in the organization’s behavior following the election of a new director general, Israel may eventually decide not to withdraw,” it adds, quoting the senior official.

Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen throws a copy of the day’s resolution on Jerusalem in the trash on Wednesday, October 26, 2016. (Erez Lichtfeld)

In Israel Hayom, though, the move was just another reason to shimmy with joy over the Simchat Torah holiday Thursday, when many Jews dance around with Torah scrolls.

The paper’s headline crows that it is “the real victory over UNESCO,” and columnist Dror Eidar calls the announcement “a holiday gift from Trump.”

“The truth is that these Arab countries should not have to try hard to convince UNESCO members to vote in favors of their lies,” he writes. “Now that the main player, the US, has left the absurdist stage, human rights defenders like Lebanon and Zimbabwe, women’s rights champions like Saudi Arabia or glorious democracies like Sudan can continue to play make believe with themselves.”

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