The agreement between Mr. Abbas, the leader of Fatah, and Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas, was yet another convulsion in the Middle East involving the rise of political Islam and the challenge it poses to pro-Western forces. It put Israel, which is nervously watching the new order taking shape around it, further on edge.
“Hamas is an enemy of peace,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “It’s an Iranian-backed terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction.”
On Sunday he told his cabinet that for Israel, living in the Middle East required self-sufficiency and toughness. “In such a region,” he said, “the only thing that ensures our existence, security and prosperity is our strength.”
Mr. Ackerman cited Mr. Meshal’s statement about unifying against the “enemy” as evidence that Hamas remained unrepentant. “It’s not conciliatory,” he said in a telephone interview. “It continues the saber rattling and the threat.”
But some analysts argued that the regional shifts of the last year and the failure of recent Palestinian-Israeli talks to reach a breakthrough were pushing Fatah and Hamas into each other’s arms. They said that Hamas would soon undergo some of the changes that Islamist movements elsewhere in the region are seen by some to be experiencing.
“The Arab awakening is witnessing the rise of a reformist political Islam in Egypt and Tunisia, and I believe we will see that Hamas is no exception,” asserted Mahdi Abdul Hadi, chairman of Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs in Jerusalem. “Western governments are dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and it is only a matter of time before they will meet with Hamas as well.”
There are senior defense officials in Israel who see a significant shift happening in Hamas as well. One, speaking recently on condition of anonymity, said, “Hamas is learning that governance is more important than terrorism.”