THE PALESTINIAN reconciliation agreement formalized Wednesday in Cairo explodes the status quo that has prevailed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for four years — along with the diplomatic strategy pursued by the Obama administration. Since 2007, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, has shunned the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip while sporadically negotiating with Israel. It has worked closely with the United States to train responsible security forces and develop an accountable, uncorrupt government.
U.S. diplomacy should meanwhile aim at reinforcing the notion that Palestinian statehood, whether or not it is endorsed by the United Nations, must be realized through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. A unified and democratically elected Palestinian leadership is a prerequisite for creating a state — but so is a government that renounces terrorism, gives up missiles and other heavy weapons, and is prepared to fully recognize Israel. If the Palestinian accord eventually produces an administration that accepts those principles, it will be a breakthrough. More likely — and failing major changes in policy by Hamas — this will prove to be yet another false start.