He wants to use the cease-fire talks in Cairo to strengthen Fatah.
In remarks Wednesday, Obama said, “I have no sympathy for Hamas. I have great sympathy for some of the work that has been done in cooperation with Israel and the international community by the Palestinian Authority. And they’ve shown themselves to be responsible. They have recognized Israel. They are prepared to move forward to arrive at a two-state solution. I think [PA Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, a.k.a.] Abu Mazen is sincere in his desire for peace.”
Obama’s plans for the cease-fire were spelled out in detail the day before in a column by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. There Ignatius claimed that Secretary of State John Kerry has abandoned his previous position on the cease-fire. That position was harshly criticized by Israeli leaders and US media heavyweights, including Ignatius himself, for its clear bias in favor of Hamas.
In contrast to Kerry’s previous adoption of all of Hamas’s demands as official US positions, Ignatius wrote that “over the past week, [Kerry] has been crafting a cease-fire plan that seeks to stabilize Gaza under the leadership of Abbas and the moderate Palestinian Authority.... [The PA] (with the support of the international community) would have overall responsibility for the rehabilitation of Gaza.”
Ignatius continued, “The thrust of Kerry’s new plan is to leverage Hamas’s unity pact with Fatah and its pledge to transfer authority in Gaza to the [PA]. As a first step, the Palestinian Authority and its US-trained security service would assume responsibility for policing the Rafah crossing from Gaza into Egypt, as well as the passages into Israel.”
Fatah, Ignatius said, “would begin paying the salaries of Palestinian civil servants in Gaza, assuming that the details could be worked out. The agreement might also move toward disarmament of all terrorist groups in Gaza.”
By empowering Fatah in this way, Ignatius explained, Kerry – and Obama – are “now headed in the right direction – away from strengthening Hamas and toward empowering the moderates on whom hopes for a more stable and secure Gaza depend.”
Ignatius then turned to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and challenged him to join with Kerry and agree “to truly open Gaza to the free flow of people and goods in return for disarming the terrorist groups.”
While the administration’s new plan sounds nice in theory, it has one basic problem.
Hamas and Fatah are partners. Hamas’s demands are Fatah’s demands. Hamas’s goals are Fatah’s goals. Giving Fatah control of the borders means giving Hamas control of the borders.
Abbas said himself in a speech broadcast on the PA’s official station in December 2009, as he was trying to form the sort of Fatah-Hamas unity government that he established in April, “There is no disagreement between us [Fatah and Hamas]: About belief? None! About policy? None! About resistance? None!” Earlier this week The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh explained that almost from the outset of the war, Hamas and Fatah have been working in perfect harmony.
Fatah officials have served as Hamas’s spokesmen to the Western media.
As Hamas conducted its terrorist war against Israel, Abbas led the diplomatic war against Israel.
Moreover, Abu Toameh reported that during the course of the hostilities, Fatah paid the salaries of Hamas members.
Due to Hamas’s designation as a foreign terrorist organization, continued funding of the PA is illegal under US counterterror statutes. Fearing that Congress would move to enforce the law and end US aid to the PA, before the war Fatah refused to pay Hamas’s membership.
For whatever reason, Abbas and his comrades are no longer concerned that financing their terrorist partners from their donor-financed budget will endanger the US’s annual gift of $440 million.
From the outset of Hamas’s campaign against Israel, Fatah militias in Gaza participated in the mortar and rocket attacks against Israel. And far from trying to hide this fact, Fatah’s leadership reveled in it. They posted news of Fatah’s mortar attacks on Israel on their official social media sites.
Fatah published a poster on its official Fatah Facebook page on July 9 under the title “Brothers in Arms.” The poster depicted terrorists from Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad and read, “One God, on homeland, one enemy, one goal.”
As for the cease-fire talks, last month Abbas traveled to Qatar where he met with Hamas terror master Khaled Mashaal. The result of the meeting was a coordinated Palestinian position regarding cease-fire demands. Those demands, which require Israel and Egypt to open the borders, are silent on the issue of demilitarizing Gaza. This is the unified position of the Palestinian delegation to the ceasefire talks in Cairo which Obama noted hopefully, is being led by Fatah.
In other words, Obama’s new position on the cease-fire terms is the same position he has held from the outset. He supports Hamas’s extortionist demands from Israel and Egypt to open Gaza’s borders in order to enable the terror group to resupply and rebuild its terror infrastructure.
The only thing that is new about his current stand is that now he supports bringing Hamas’s supposedly moderate partners in Fatah in as window dressing.
For those who have been willing to pay attention to Abbas’s actions and those of his Fatah comrades, nothing in their behavior during the war has been remotely surprising.
Since the PA was established in 1994, Fatah and Hamas have had a cooperative relationship. The only times that Fatah has fought Hamas have been when Fatah felt directly threatened by Hamas. And the moment that perceived threat abated, Fatah ended its operations and restored its cooperation with Hamas.
Abu Toameh reported that in the latest war, Abbas instructed his security commanders to suspend their operations against Hamas in Judea and Samaria. After all, they are his partners, not his rivals.
Beyond that, Fatah supports weapons smuggling across the Egyptian border. Having Fatah in charge of the border crossings would not prevent Hamas and Islamic Jihad from replenishing their arsenals and rebuilding their tunnels of death. It will enable them to do so.
And again, we know this from the PA/Fatah’s track record.
From the start of the Palestinian terror war in September 2000 until Hamas ejected Fatah from Gaza in June 2007, Fatah was in control of the borders with Israel and Egypt. During this period, it engineered the weapons smuggling operations into Gaza. The Iranian weapons ship Karine-A that Israeli naval commandos intercepted in the Red Sea en route to Gaza in January 2003 was commanded by the deputy head of the PA’s naval force, a member of Fatah. The weapons deal was negotiated with Yasser Arafat’s paymaster Fuad Shubaki.
Tunnel building began during Fatah’s period of control over Gaza. When then Cpl. Gilad Schalit was abducted from Israel to Gaza in June 2006, by terrorists who entered his base from an underground tunnel that traversed the border, Fatah, led by Abbas, still controlled Gaza.
As for those Fatah military forces trained by the US military, they are no better than the Iraqi military forces the Americans trained.
When Hamas threw Fatah out of Gaza in 2007, Fatah’s US-trained troops and officers were the first to flee.
The counterterror training US military trainers lavished on them had no impact on their willingness to stand their ground against Hamas. They didn’t even try to fight.
And yet, Obama’s plan is to bring these same Fatah forces back to Gaza. He and Kerry (and Ignatius), want Israel to believe that these Fatah forces will demilitarize Hamas in exchange for open borders, which they will secure and prevent Hamas from using as a means to rebuild its arsenals and replenish its financing.
Not that they weren’t clear before, but two things became blindingly obvious during the war.
First, Hamas is very bad. It really and truly is dedicated to Israel’s destruction. It is willing to engage in Palestinian child sacrifice in order to kill Jews. It used all the aid it received, all the money, all the concrete to build a terror infrastructure and missile arsenal dedicated to killing Jews.
Nothing else matters to Hamas leaders, not Gaza, not Palestine, not their mothers and children.
There is no way for Israel to reach a long term non-aggression pact with Hamas. It can only be defeated through direct military operations and attrition.
The other thing we learned was that Israel simply cannot, under any circumstances, consider withdrawing from Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. Netanyahu made this point explicitly in his press conference at the outset of the war. He explained, “If we were to pull out of Judea and Samaria like they tell us to there’d be a possibility of thousands of tunnels” being dug to attack Israel.
Netanyahu noted that the Palestinians dug 1,200 tunnels under Gaza’s 14-kilometer-long border with Egypt.
Judea and Samaria, he continued, are 20 times the size of Gaza, and Israel is not prepared “to create another 20 Gazas.”
As soon as the cease-fire began, the Israeli Left reverted to type. The media began pillorying Netanyahu for not viewing the war with Hamas as an opportunity for a diplomatic breakthrough with Abbas and Fatah.
Netanyahu, they accuse, tricked them. He wasn’t weakening Hamas to strengthen Abbas.
He was simply weakening Hamas so that it couldn’t harm Israel.
Netanyahu’s erred during the fighting when he made the demilitarization of Gaza a declared war aim. By doing so he opened the door for the Left, the White House and the EU to begin spewing their absurd lies about Fatah as a credible, moderate force that can be depended on – with their taxpayer dollars and euros – to demilitarize Gaza.
In his remarks, Obama indicated that the world – that is the US and Europe – must be involved in any cease-fire deal related to Gaza. And for the privilege of having them on board, Israel needs to accept Hamas-Fatah’s demand for open borders.
But the truth is that the US and the EU are completely unnecessary. Israel and Egypt can secure the borders. And if the Americans and Europeans are concerned for the welfare of the people of Gaza, they can transfer their aid to Israel, which can distribute it to those who need assistance rather than handing it over to Hamas.
The reason Netanyahu isn’t trying to use the war in Gaza to promote a wider peace with Fatah is because Fatah is not interested in peace with Israel. As it showed again during the war, Fatah is Hamas’s partner, not Israel’s. And any deal with Fatah is a deal that strengthens Hamas.
Ignatius is wrong. The administration still backs Hamas’s demands against Israel. It just updated the talking points to align with Ignatius’s entirely incorrect preconceived notions about the nature of Fatah.
Caroline B. Glick is the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.