Last week, the Obama administration resumed its attempt to pressure Israel into agreeing to the 1967 lines as the starting point for future peace talks. This point, like previous disputes with Obama over Jerusalem and settlement freezes, is intended to entice the Palestinians to return to peace talks. But while Washington obsesses over its attempt to hammer the Netanyahu government into submission, few here are paying attention to a much more important story: the way the Hamas-Fatah unity pact is transforming Palestinian politics.
As the Jerusalem Post reports today, those who expected Hamas would allow Fatah-connected technocrats to continue to run the Palestinian Authority were mistaken. Rather than merely ceding power to men like current PA prime minister Salam Fayyad, the terrorists of Hamas have literally stuck to their guns in negotiations over the formation of a coalition government to run independent Gaza and the autonomous West Bank. The upshot is, the moderate Fayyad, who is considered by both the United States and Israel as a man interested in peace and building a viable Palestinian economy, is being chucked out of office. Though tension between the two movements and their “military” wings continues to simmer, the pact is not breaking up. The result will be a PA in which the rejectionists of Hamas have a clear veto.
While apologists for the Palestinians have spoken of the unity pact as a prerequisite for peace, the ability of Hamas to nix Fayyad also means they have the power to ensure additional far-reaching compromises necessary for a pact with Israel are also never going to happen. A PA government in which Hamas has that much pull is one that is obviously never going to give up on the right of return for the descendants of Palestinian refugees or agree to the “swaps” of territory that is part of America’s push for recognition of the 1967 lines.
But rather than draw the obvious conclusion peace will be impossible until Fatah disassociates itself from Hamas, the president and Secretary of State Clinton are proceeding on the false assumption the PA will return to the talks and accept the concessions Washington is attempting to squeeze out of the Israelis. Instead of seeking to appease the Hamas-Fatah government, Obama and Clinton ought to be warning the Palestinians that the presence of terrorists in a PA administration will legally obligate the United States to put an end to the flow of American aid to the PA.
It speaks volumes about how out of touch with reality American foreign policy is these days. The Obama administration is so focused on its feud with Netanyahu, they have ignored a sea change in Palestinian politics that has rendered their argument with Israel completely moot.