Dangerous Unity: The Perils of the New Fatah-Hamas Government

(Weekly Standard) Elliott Abrams - The greatest immediate risk from the Fatah-Hamas deal is that the security forces in the West Bank, which have been vigilant and active against Hamas and other terrorist groups, might now dial down their activity in order to avoid confrontations. That would allow Hamas to gain ground in the West Bank and is the most serious danger from the unity deal. American officials should be warning the PA against this now and threatening aid cutoffs if such a trend appears. Much of the aid the U.S. gives to the PA is cash - and that money should not be delivered until the situation is much better understood than it is today. What will Hamas' influence be? Until we know more, handing over large amounts of cash - $200 million this year - would be foolish. The whole purpose of the new, temporary government is to organize new elections. The Oslo peace accords clearly and intentionally barred terrorist groups like Hamas from participating in elections until they disarmed. Yossi Beilin, the Israeli politician who had been one of the participants in Oslo, said at the time: "There can be no doubt that participation by Hamas in elections held in the Palestinian Authority in January 2006 is a gross violation of the Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement....That this military organization, appearing as a political party, is allowed to abuse democracy is a prize for terror and violence....Hamas's entrance into PA institutions is liable to cast a veto on future peace moves, without eliminating the option of violence." Hamas should not be permitted to participate in the elections until it renounces terrorism and begins to give up its weapons - not "ultimately" but now. The participation of Hamas in the Palestinian political system cannot be a move toward peace, because Hamas does not believe in peace or seek it. The notion that pulling Hamas into the political system will somehow moderate it is given the lie by experience in Gaza, where Hamas has ruled since 2007. The need to pick up the garbage and worry about employment has in these seven years had zero impact on the group's extremism. Similarly, participation in the Lebanese parliament for years has not moderated Hizbullah's views or reduced its terrorist operations. For the U.S., the participation of Hamas in the elections risks destroying any hope of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and any hope of movement toward peace. It risks legitimizing the vicious anti-Semitism and the terrorism that lie at the core of Hamas as an organization. And it risks teaching the broader lesson that terrorist groups can fight for power with both guns and ballots - and with American approval. The mistake the U.S. made in 2006 should not be repeated. The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration.

2014-06-11 00:00:00

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