Jackson Diehl explains that "the still-evolving unity pact" between Hamas and Fatah to form a coherent government in the Palestinian Authority and a unified approach to Israel and the West, "isn't likely to impress either Olmert or Bush, since it almost certainly won't commit Hamas or the new government to formal recognition of Israel or an unqualified renunciation of violence." I have to say that I find this kind of mindset -- which was also in evidence last week when I discussed these issues with an Israeli politician -- a little bit puzzling. From where I sit, it seems to me that formal recognition of Israel and an unqualified renunciation of violence would be Israel's main objectives in a negotiation aimed at a permanent status treaty.

Such a treaty would demarcate the borders of Israel and Palestine, provide for the mutual recognition of those borders by the two states, entail recognition of the two states by the rest of the world's countries, and establish peace between the two states. That's the goal -- something that would be the outcome of negotiations, not a precondition for them. That's how wars end; first you have a cease-fire to facilitate negotiations, then if you reach an agreement the agreement contains provisions for recognition and a renunciation of violence. Insofar as Hamas simply isn't amenable to any kind of reasonable settlement (which certainly seems plausible) it seems to me that it would be in Israel's interest to get that fact plainly on the table rather than having everything stuck in a meta-negotiation about preconditions.