As we noted last week, the current Palestinian reconciliation offensive apparently has caused something of a reassessment among Trump administration officials as to what should be the price of Hamas’s inclusion in a Palestinian Authority government.
Although U.S. law will not allow financial aid to the Palestinian Authority should it include an unrepentant Hamas that has not renounced violence, has not recognized Israel, has not disarmed, and has not committed to peaceful negotiations with Israel, a statement from State Department indicated that these requirements may not necessarily have to be satisfied before the process begins (but could kick in after the unity government begins its work).
Prime Minister Netanyahu has said Israel will not sit down with Hamas as presently constituted. And special U.S. envoy Jason Greenblatt seemed to echo this: “If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements.”
However, on Sunday, Haaretz, quoting senior White House officials, reported that there is no expectation that the conditions will “happen overnight.” According to Haaretz, the Trump administration is thrilled with the current reconciliation efforts, especially the reported Egyptian role:
“Egypt has helped us crack open a door to Gaza that didn’t exist a few weeks go, and we see it as a possible opportunity,” said one senior White House official who asked not to be identified due to the diplomatic sensitivity of the matter. “Israelis and Palestinians are so much better off if we can make something out of it.”
But here is what Yehya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, said last Thursday: “The time has passed when Hamas is discussing the issue of recognizing Israel. Now the debate is over when we wipe out Israel…. No one can disarm us.”
So what exactly are those senior White House officials counting on?