The news that Fatah and Hamas have agreed in principle to form a unity government to govern the Palestinian Authority answers the question that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put to PA head Mahmoud Abbas about choosing between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas. Abbas has now chosen to partner with the Islamist terrorist movement.
There will be those who will try to spin this development as somehow helpful for peace. Palestinian unity will supposedly make it easier for the PA to accept a peace agreement—once the West has hammered Israel into accepting even more concessions. But those who make such an argument are either deluded or disingenuous. A Fatah-Hamas concordat dooms even the already remote chances that there will be a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Abbas’s Fatah-led government had already shown that it was incapable of taking an Israeli “Yes!” for an answer. It refused to negotiate with Netanyahu after turning down an offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and part of Jerusalem in 2008 made by Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert. But now that it is going to bed with Hamas, there is literally no chance that such a coalition could ever agree to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state alongside the Palestinian one. No matter where its borders are drawn.
While Abbas has answered Netanyahu’s question, what remains to be seen is how President Obama will respond. Obama has been rumored to be mulling his own Middle East peace plan even though advancing one under these circumstances is an invitation to disaster and diplomatic humiliation. But Abbas’s decision to ally itself with an entity that the United States rightly considers a terrorist group means that Obama must now decide, not only whether to pressure Israel to deal with the new Palestinian axis, but also whether to sanction the PA as well. There is little question that there will be some voices within the administration raised in favor of ignoring or downplaying the fact that the PA is now formally part of a terrorist partnership.
If Obama is serious about standing up against terrorism and for peace he must denounce this deal. Even more, he must show Abbas that there are consequences for those who cross the United States in this manner. The flow of aid, which is the lifeblood of the bankrupt PA must be threatened if not cut off. Even more, Obama must serve notice on the Palestinians. So long as they choose to be represented by Hamas, they will get no help from the United States in their quest for statehood.