The startling American turnabout in accepting the inclusion of Hamas in a Palestinian unity government seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy, if not actual payback for the collapse of negotiations with the Palestinians – a turn of events for which a number of administration officials pointedly blamed Israel.
Secretary of State Kerry had warned Israeli leaders that if talks with the Palestinians broke down, Israel would become increasingly isolated in the international community. And now we have the Obama administration joining the worldwide charge to legitimize a group that seeks Israel’s destruction.
But while the new development hardly augurs well for Israel, the consequences to America may be even more troublesome.
Plainly, President Obama has once again trashed one of his more important “red lines,” just as he did during the Syrian nerve gas and Iranian nuclear debacles. Of course, for Israel it is a loud message that the U.S. cannot be relied on to keep its commitments if it is willing to renege even on a promise that it would not deal with Hamas unless it renounced violence, recognized Israel’s right to exist, and promised to abide by all previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Ironically, though, the administration’s flip-flop will have an even more negative impact on the prospects for peace. What President Obama has in effect told the Palestinians is that concessions are not necessary. Just wait the Americans out and you’ll get what you want from them and, by extension, from Israel.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has no reason to even go through the motions of telling his people of the necessity for negotiations.
More important, for Hamas it is a vindication of their no-negotiation-with-Israel stance and will undoubtedly elevate it in the eyes of Palestinians, to the detriment of Mr. Abbas and his cohorts. This is an ominous prospect given the fact that the PA/Hamas reconciliation agreement calls for presidential and parliamentary elections in six months. Not only has Hamas been legitimized by their acceptance into a Palestinian unity government, it has been given a pivotal election issue as well.
As for those countries – including Arab countries like Saudi Arabia – that have relied on U.S. aid and protection, this is one more indication that the U.S. has no coherent foreign policy and is an unreliable friend.