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June 6, 2014
A Divisive Unity Government
It’s hard to see how any good can come from the Obama administration’s rapid-fire embrace of the new Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas.
From day one of Hamas’ political ascension in Gaza in 2006, the international community made clear that the terrorist organization would be welcomed into peace negotiations and the world community if it met three conditions: renouncing violence, recognizing Israel’s right to exist and honoring past agreements between the sides.
As recently as last week, as a deal between the rival Palestinian factions was about to be sealed, Hamas leaders, not surprisingly, reiterated their rejectionist stance.
Hamas’s two most senior representatives, Khaled Mashaal and Mahmoud Zahar, reportedly said they will continue to use violence against Israel even after the formation of the unity government. Zahar further said Hamas is planning to take advantage of the unity deal to move its terrorist attacks against Israel to the West Bank, the Jerusalem Post reported. So even as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is insisting that the new Fatah-Hamas government is filled with technocrats and will recognize Israel and hold the peace, Hamas officials are saying the exact opposite.
With this backdrop, it is hard to understand how the administration jumped so quickly to dismiss the international precepts that it had been instrumental in devising. Using a carrot-and-stick approach, the administration could have held out the prospect of recognition only if Hamas underwent genuine reform. Wishful thinking aside, the sad reality is that it is unlikely that Hamas will change its stripes.
Though weakened economically and politically, it has continued its assault on the Jewish state. The difference now is that it can do so with a newfound legitimacy bestowed on it by international power brokers, including the United States.
Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, in announcing the U.S. decision to “work with” the new Palestinian government on Monday, also told reporters that the administration would “continue to evaluate the composition and policies of the new government and, if needed, we’ll modify our approach.”
The initial damage has already been done, and what dire consequences will come from this development are not yet clear. But the administration needs to take a cue from Congress, which has already said it will reassess the $400 million in U.S. aid to the Palestinians. With Israeli trust in the U.S. government at a new low, it is essential that every move be watched with a microscope. The Palestinian actions going forward will tell all.