The NY Times has an analysis today on Israel's dilemma in negotiating peace with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas when Hamas, not Abbas, controls Gaza. As the last few days' events showed, military confrontations between Israel and Hamas make it impossible for Abbas to keep negotiating. And even if he reached a deal, how much would it mean when he doesn't speak for Gaza? An alternative is negotiating directly with Hamas. But that's a a painful choice -- it legitimizes the Islamic movement's takeover of Gaza, and mean Israel would be negotiating with two separate representatives of the Palestinians. The Times doesn't mention the logical third way, described here last week just as the fighting in and around Gaza was escalating: Israel should encourage reestablishment of a Palestinian unity government -- possibly by releasing jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti.

--Gershom Gorenberg

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