The Fatah-Hamas unity pact destroyed Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace talks and undermined the notion that the Palestinian Authority was a genuine partner for peace with Israel. But the standard argument heard from those who believe the United States must continue to support and subsidize the PA is that it is Fatah that is calling the shots in Ramallah and that a financially distressed Hamas is being absorbed by the supposedly more moderate Palestinian group. But that assumption, which had little basis to start with, was dealt a body blow this week when Hamas called on its operatives in the West Bank to redouble their efforts to target Israeli soldiers and civilians.
The supposed rationale for this statement, in which Hamas’s leading spokesman literally called for the spilling of Jewish blood, were complaints about the continued hunger strike being undertaken by terrorist prisoners in Israeli prisons. The ill feelings between Fatah and Hamas are also playing a role in increasing militancy since the Islamist group feels its army of no-show and no-work municipal employees are not being paid the salaries that Fatah promised them. But the bottom line here is that in contrast to the assurances that supporters of the peace process have made on their behalf, Hamas remains utterly opposed to peace and still dedicated to its charter that calls for Israel’s destruction and the slaughter of its population.
But with Hamas now openly demonstrating that far from being assimilated into the peace process, it is more dedicated than ever to perpetuating the conflict, the question arises as to why the U.S. is persisting in pretending otherwise.
The State Department announcement last week that it would continue sending aid to the PA in the wake of the Hamas pact flatly contradicted the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006. That law stated specifically that taxpayer dollars could not continue to flow to the PA if Hamas was part of the Palestinian government until that Islamist terror group and the PA ceased terrorism and incitement. The only way to continue the aid is for the president to transmit to Congress a waiver saying the conditions of the law are being met. While the State Department claimed that the absence of any Hamas members in the new PA cabinet allows it to say that the group isn’t part of the government, the fact remains that the terror group is a full partner in this new government and no one in Ramallah or Gaza is pretending otherwise.
Were President Obama serious about promoting Palestinian democracy and peace, he would be using the signs of a spat between the two new partners to pressure PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to reject Hamas and to insist that any member of his government embrace peace. But instead of exploiting the rift that gives the U.S. another opportunity to rid the PA of open terrorists, the administration is remaining silent.
As I noted last week, the decision to keep funding a PA that included Hamas was a retreat from decades of U.S. anti-terrorism policy as well as a betrayal of the alliance with Israel. But a refusal to acknowledge what Hamas is openly saying about terror is more than a misguided policy; it gives the lie to the U.S. insistence that its goal is peace via a two-state solution. Even prior to the unity pact, the Fatah-dominated PA had shown no interest in recognizing the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders were drawn. But with this latest terror threat, it is clear that Hamas has not altered its platform or its practices. So long as Hamas is part of the PA the chances of peace with Israel are exactly zero. While they are not much higher without Hamas, it is at least theoretically possible that the PA might change its tune.
The Hamas threat makes it all the more imperative that Congress act quickly to freeze up Palestinian aid. The money that the U.S. and Europe gives the Palestinians is the only leverage the West has to promote peace. If this administration is not willing to use it, it must be understood that any sort of peace process is simply impossible. While defenders of the unity pact and the PA have asserted that making the Palestinians face consequences for their behavior is unhelpful, the opposite is true. If Obama isn’t prepared to pressure the Palestinians to reject Hamas and embrace peace, his own bona fides as a Middle East peacemaker are very much in question.