While President Obama is still trying to pressure Israel to bow to his dictates about borders in order to entice the Palestinians to negotiate, the beneficiaries of his bullying of the Jewish state can’t even meet with themselves. Several weeks after the Fatah and Hamas factions signed a unity agreement in Egypt, the two groups are still bickering over the composition of a Palestinian government. Palestinian Authority head and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas was supposed to meet with Hamas head Khaled Meshal on Tuesday, but the meeting has been canceled.
One of the main points of contention between the two has been whether Salam Fayyad would remain as prime minister in a future government. The American-educated Fayyad is a favorite of the West and is seen as having made some progress in trying to rid the PA of the mafia-style corruption that characterized its governance. Hamas claims to hate Fayyad because of his role in arresting and torturing its members in the West Bank. But since Fayyad is not generally believed to have control of the various security services run by Fatah, this is a smoke screen for other objections. Hamas’ real problem with Fayyad is his focus on state building and the economy that puts the conflict with Israel on the back burner.
What this argument illustrates is the unity government with Hamas is more than a problem of symbolism. Inviting the Islamist terrorist group into the tent means not only that the PA will be compromised by their presence but it will also necessitate the abandonment of the men and the ideas that give any hope a Palestinian state will seek to live in peace alongside Israel.
But all this is mere detail to an Obama administration obsessed with the idea of bringing the Israeli government to its knees. To them it doesn’t matter the Palestinians not only won’t negotiate in good faith with Israel; they can’t. As Jackson Diehl writes in today’s Washington Post, Abbas appears even less interested than his predecessor Yasir Arafat in making concessions for peace. But Obama’s “superpower chutzpah” leads him to think he can make peace happen because he says so.
As Diehl writes, the administration is afflicted with a curious pattern of behavior–timorous when speaking to dictators like Bashar Assad of Syria but overbearing and arrogant with its democratic ally Israel. But this is no less odd than its unwillingness to understand the extremist dynamic of Palestinian politics that renders Obama’s peace parameters science fiction.