U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern, South and Central Asian Affairs, released the following statement on the announcement of reconciliation between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas today, as well as its impact on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
"It is disappointing to see events in recent weeks that have driven the Israelis and Palestinians further apart in the important quest to find a peaceful two-state solution. The announcement of a reconciliation deal between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Hamas brought an understandable reaction from Israel, questioning how it can be expected to negotiate a peace deal with a Palestinian partner that is working with a terrorist organization opposing recognition of Israel.
"The announced reconciliation makes the choices and challenges more stark. But it does not change the underlying goal -- the ultimate existence of two states --
Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security as contemplated and repeatedly promoted by the United Nations, the United States and the global community since 1946. My conversations with leaders in Israel and the West Bank over the years, and as recently as my visit to the region in February, convinced me that this remains the best outcome for the Palestinian and Israeli people and that the leaders of both nations, while seeing major obstacles to this goal, also see the absence of any other acceptable alternative.
"If the announced reconciliation between the PLO and Hamas holds, it will at least provide some clarity. If there is to be an independent Palestine, it must speak with one voice in affirming Israel's right to exist, its intent to live peacefully with its neighbor, and its commitment to previous agreements. Israel could hardly live securely with an agreement accepted by only a portion of the Palestinian people and leadership. So now the question of Palestinian intent will be posed in a much more direct way.
I hope that the parties will continue to talk so that they may find this resolution themselves. No resolution imposed by external parties or institutions will have the salutary effect of a sober agreement reached by two nations for the future good of their own people. In the immediate term, the U.S. and global institutions like the U.N. should be focused on whether the reconciliation with Hamas leads to a degradation in Palestinian pledges to live peacefully with Israel. That is a fundamental threshold against which all other actions and positions must be measured."