Abbas’s capitulation to Hamas has dealt a critical blow to any hope of Israeli-Palestinian progress.
‘There will be no dialogue with these murderers,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said back in June 2007, referring to Hamas. “There will be no dialogue with the forces of darkness.” Abbas made these remarks shortly after Hamas, in a bloody coup, had seized control of the Gaza Strip. It was also a few months after an assassination attempt against him, which he said was engineered by Hamas. Now the same Hamas members whom he once correctly referred to as “murderous terrorists” are to become Abbas’s colleagues in a “national unity” government.
Abbas purports to expect Israel to cooperate with his volte face by entering into a negotiating partnership with this new government – a Palestinian leadership featuring a terrorist group whose members promulgate the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and vow, as a core of their religious conviction, to eradicate the Jewish state from what they insist is Muslim land.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has declared that such negotiations will not happen. The PA has to choose between a peace deal with Israel and one with Hamas, Netanyahu said on Wednesday. Israel would not accept Abbas’s hair-splitting distinctions between the PLO (to which Hamas does not belong), that would supposedly be responsible for handling negotiations, and the new unity government.
The New York Times’ Ethan Bronner predicted that Israel could be blamed for Abbas’s turn to Hamas. The reconciliation, wrote Bronner, “was sure to fuel debate on whether Mr.
Netanyahu had done enough in his two years in power to forge a deal with the Palestinian Authority led by Mr. Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, widely considered the most moderate leaders the Palestinians have ever had.”
Presumably, according to this reasoning, if the government had only caved in to every Palestinian demand, even those that endanger Israel’s security, Abbas would never have followed that sizable proportion of his own people who already chose, at the ballot box five years ago, to entrust their future to a reactionary form of Islamic rule that blatantly discriminates against non-Muslims and champions suicide bombings.
As anyone not prejudiced against Israel and willing to credit Palestinians with making their own decisions knows, however, the real impetus behind the reconciliation, which enjoys massive grassroots support on the West Bank and in Gaza, is that many, if not most, Palestinians truly identify with many of the goals and aims of Hamas. Similarly, many, if not most Egyptians, Jordanians and Syrians support the goals and aims of the Muslim Brotherhood in their respective countries, none of which, by the way, are under Israeli “occupation.”
Yasser Arafat fostered the foul notion among his people that there was no historical basis and no modern legitimacy for Jewish sovereignty in this land. Abbas chose not to energetically challenge that mindset. The misnamed new “unity” – which Hamas will destroy at its convenience – is the latest consequence.
Abbas failed to present to his people a compelling vision of a Palestinian state without religious extremism and violence; a state that fosters reconciliation – not with Hamas but with Israel. Instead, his PA has continued to incite against Israel in its school curriculum and its official media and to glorify terrorists who kill Israelis. It has clung to “peace” positions that no Israeli government could accommodate, and chose not to seize upon the unprecedented terms that were offered by former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Now Abbas is being hailed by the public whose hostility to Israel he failed to defuse for entering a partnership with an organization that has breached precisely such accords before, that murdered its own people while grabbing control of Gaza, that uses its own people as human shields for its rocket attacks on Israel, that attempted to assassinate him, and whose vision of a Palestinian state is another fundamentalist Muslim regime patterned after Iran. (Tellingly, one of the few senior government officials to have come out in favor of the unity deal is Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi who called it a “blessed, positive move.”) Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are right to be concerned that soon Abbas will lose control to Hamas in the West Bank as well.
THE NEW situation creates all manner of potential problems for Israel – and for those Palestinians who revile the extremists.
What will become of the economic partnership with Fayyad? What, now, of the fragile security cooperation in the West Bank? Will Hamas prisoners held by the PA now be freed? If the international community chooses to fall for the pretense of unity, what new pressures will Israel face to ease the restrictions that seek to thwart the flow of weapons into Gaza? And if key world players reject the pretense, what will happen to the hundreds of millions of dollars the US sends annually to the PA – supplemented by other donor countries.
Rapprochement with Hamas should be counterproductive to the PA’s campaign to secure UN recognition in September for an independent state along the June 4, 1967 lines. No morally minded country should recognize a Palestinian state led by a government whose members reject the Mideast Quartet’s principles of renouncing violence, accepting past agreements, and recognizing Israel’s right to exist. “Should,” however, is the operative word here.
Abbas rightly characterized Hamas as being among “the forces of darkness.” His capitulation to it now has dealt a critical blow to any hope of Israeli-Palestinian progress.
Eight months ago in Washington, Netanyahu called Abbas his “partner in peace.” He isn’t any more.