On the one hand, al-Qaida is not the sticking point here; it was not disagreement over Bin Laden that held up the 2000 or 2008 peace talks, and Israel isn’t skeptical of reconciliation—that is, of a unified Palestinian sovereign that prominently includes Hamas—because Hamas refused to celebrate, and in fact condemned, the death of one of the world’s worst men.
But Hamas’ take on Bin Laden’s killing is nonetheless unbelievably disturbing. (It is also far from shocking: Both Hamas and al-Qaida are jihadist entities; longtime Bin Laden mentor Abdullah Azzam helped found Hamas. So, let’s dispense with the myth that this was merely a case of “bad P.R.” on Hamas’ part. This isn’t P.R.; this is policy. And that remains true even if Hamas was motivated in part to shore up its hardline flank. It’s very simple: Hamas is against the killing of Bin Laden.) You can make compromises—you can make peace—with those with whom you disagree, even vehemently. But you have to be living on the same planet. And people who unequivocally condemn the killing of Bin Laden are not living on the same planet as mainstream Israelis, and Israelis shouldn’t be required to move to that planet in order to make peace.
So, while the most immediately obvious contradiction is that between the Hamas and P.A.—the group that mourns the jihadist and the group that celebrates his death may have a tough time seeing eye-to-eye going forward—the most important one is that between Hamas and Israel, America, and the West. The reconciliation deal yet again proves a useful heightening of contradictions. This time, that heightening is a clear defeat for the forces that favor peace.