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.