The futility inherent in Israel’s negotiating any agreements with Mahmoud Abbas was always apparent given the continuing vitality of Hamas, a terrorist group that openly seeks the destruction of Israel and remains in control of Gaza while retaining the loyalty of a good share – perhaps a majority – of Palestinians.
Indeed, it was Hamas that won the last Palestinian parliamentary elections held in the West Bank and Gaza, not Mr. Abbas’s Fatah.
So Mr. Abbas’s announcement last week of a reconciliation agreement with Hamas providing for a unity government can only be seen as a declaration that the Palestinians are really not interested in a peace agreement. To be sure, Mr. Abbas insisted that any government that is formed would be his and represent his policies, but he carefully stopped short of saying Hamas would renounce terror, recognize Israel, and abide by all prior and future agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.
Moreover as a senior Hamas leader put it,
The [Abbas-led] Palestine Liberation Organization is the one that negotiates with Israel and recognized Israel. It is not required of every Palestinian party to recognize Israel just as it is not required of very Israeli party to have the same views as other Israeli parties.
True, up to a point. But Israel, the U.S. and the European Union all maintain that Hamas cannot be part of any negotiations unless it changes its fundamental opposition to the existence of Israel. Nor do the differences among the members of Israel’s coalition government extend to whether or not to abide by international commitments made in the name of the government.
American law provides for restrictions on financial aid to the Palestinians based on the involvement of Hamas in their governance. The announcement of the unity government would seem to trigger those laws and, indeed, several members of Congress have stated that further aid should be sharply curtailed or eliminated altogether.
We can’t help but feel, however, that far preferable to a debate over what is legally required would be an executive decision by President Obama to cut the aid because Mr. Abbas is no longer fooling anyone and there has to be a cost to his duplicitousness.