After months of being left out of the headlines, it appears that the Palestinians are back, bidding to get our attention. By forging a long-sought coalition between his own Fatah Party and members of Hamas -- and other Palestinian factions, such as Islamic Jihad -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is hoping to put a new face on his government and inspire Western governments to restart the flow of aid to his regime.
But before the foreign-aid gravy train resumes chugging back to places like Gaza and Ramallah, some points must be clarified.
The reason why aid was halted to the P.A. was not the result of a technicality that can be evaded by a slight hand maneuver. Hamas, which won the Palestinian legislative elections in January, is a terrorist movement. Its goal remains the destruction of Israel. The same is true for the smaller Islamic Jihad group that Abbas is also seeking to legitimize.
Unless and until these groups renounce their ideology -- and publicly proclaim that they are dedicated to making peace with Israel -- the ban on sending American taxpayer dollars should stand.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has stated his willingness to restart peace talks with Abbas. But before that happens, Israel is right to expect that Abbas make good on his obligation to end terror and put his people on the path to peace. Abbas spent most of 2005 as the fair-haired boy of Washington and the European Union. But the hopes placed in his alleged moderation were undermined by his unwillingness to confront the terrorists. Judging by his track record and that of Hamas, it looks more like Abbas is about to become the front man for an even worse crew of cut-throats.
The temptation to forget about the reality of Hamas may be great for an American government looking for some good news in the Middle East. But caution, rather than optimism, ought to be our reaction to Abbas' moves. Returning kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in good health is just the first of several tests Abbas should be required to pass before the P.A. gets one dime of foreign assistance.