I'd love to believe in the peace process tooth fairy. I really would.
In the wake of the Israeli-Hamas ceasefire in Gaza, I'd love to believe:
That the Egyptian government -- backed by the Turks, the Saudis and the Qataris -- would put its money where its mouth is and press Hamas to give up its deadly and indiscriminate arsenal of unguided rockets.
That Hamas would meet the Middle East Quartet's conditions, including the renunciation of violence and the recognition of Israel, and enter into a dialogue with the Israelis.
That Hamas and Fatah would reconcile -- forging one gun, one authority, and one negotiating position. This unified Palestinian national movement would then settle on terms for a deal with Israel that belongs to this world, not some fantasy galaxy.
That Israel would cease settlement construction in the West Bank and understand that its long-term security and its character as the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people depends on a meaningful peace with the Palestinians.
But back on planet Earth, this wish list remains as realistic as the tooth fairy's business plan. And instead of progress toward a two-state solution, another more realistic and less transformative trend is underway.
Like Grinches who stole the peace process, the three most important regional actors -- Israel, Egypt, and Hamas -- have indirectly aligned at the expense of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to take the two-state solution in a completely different direction. The members of this informal cabal are pursuing policies that cannot possibly guarantee long-term stability, let alone produce a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. But that may just fine with them, and it may even be all that the peace-process traffic can bear right now. Here's why.
It took almost a quarter century for the Palestine Liberation Organization -- the secular manifestation of Palestinian nationalism -- to recognize Israel and to engage in a peace process with Israel. One can only surmise how long it will be before Hamas -- the religious manifestation of Palestinian nationalism -- follows the same path. Hamas officials, such as the organization's head Khaled Meshaal, have flirted with the idea of coming to terms with Israel's existence (for now). But not recognizing Israel, as Arafat and Abbas have done.
But all of this is really beside the point. Hamas has other objectives right now -- consolidating its control over Gaza, ending economic restrictions on the Strip, continuing to spread its influence in the West Bank, and deepening its relations with other Islamists in the Arab world.
None of this is served by a continued fight with Israel, nor by a peace process that forces Hamas to violate its own ideology and split its ranks. Indirect talks with Israel that leading to a long-term truce, or hudna in Arabic, would do nicely.
We need to distinguish between President Mohammed Morsy's tactics and his strategic objectives. Like Hamas, he may have radical end goals, but he currently has other priorities -- namely, consolidating power and securing economic aid from the West.
His ownership of the recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas had less to do with wanting to play a central role in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts than a means to achieve those other ends.
The recent escalation in Gaza threatened to trap Morsy in a no-win situation. If the conflict worsened, it would have placed him in an escalating crisis with Israel and the United States and forced him to respond aggressively against fellow Islamists if the Israelis launched a ground incursion.