Hamas Needs to Recognize Israel

Engaged to Hamas

The cost of the Palestinian Authority’s ‘unity’ with terrorists.

May 11, 2011

Before the ink dries on last week’s deal to bring Hamas into the Palestinian government, the Obama Administration is trying to suggest it’s no big deal. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the door remained open to continued U.S. support. Other officials suggested that Hamas might change—or in any case the accord will prove to be short lived.

So some things haven’t changed in the post-bin Laden, Arab Spring Middle East. A Palestinian leadership that lives off outside aid continues to think that hostile actions carry few consequences. And the West sounds willing to indulge them, fearing that any other response could jeopardize their near religious pursuit of the peace process.

By agreeing to form a “unity government” with Hamas, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may think he can boost his popularity in the West Bank and regain some control over Gaza. Many Europeans and some Americans will buy the argument that Israel’s reluctance to negotiate peace forced Mr. Abbas’s hand.

Yet the engagement won’t be easy to ignore. Pending agreement on a new cabinet—one of several obstacles to consummating the deal—the terrorist group that’s now confined to the Gaza strip will have access to billions in foreign aid. There’s no way for any donor or for Israel, which transfers customs and other receipts to the Palestinian Authority, to ensure that money won’t be used by Hamas to launch more rockets on Israeli school buses. 

Hamas leader Khaled Meshal makes no secret of its intentions. Several times since the accord was signed in Cairo last Wednesday, he passed up the opportunity to renounce violence or its commitment to Israel’s destruction. He said on Sunday that Hamas may continue to fight Israel even after the formation of a Palestinian state. Speaking to the New York Times last week, Mr. Meshal said that the goal was “a Palestinian state in the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital, without any settlements or settlers, not an inch of land swaps and respecting the right of return” of all Palestinian refugees and their offspring to Israel itself. This leaves little room for discussion.

One casualty may be Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the competent technocrat who cleaned up some of the corruption in the authority, revived the West Bank economy and clamped down on violence. No wonder Hamas wants him out. They’ve turned the Gaza strip into a failed terror haven since gaining control after a brief Palestinian civil war in 2007. Mr. Abbas says he would like to reappoint Prime Minister Fayyad to reassure foreign donors.

Even if Hamas did let Mr. Fayyad keep his job, donors will have to reassess support. Twenty-nine Senators, in a letter organized by two Democrats, have called on President Obama to cut off aid to any Palestinian government that includes Hamas. The U.S. provides $550 million a year.

The Palestinians aren’t going to get their state as long as their leaders include committed terrorists. Israel tried this route with Yasser Arafat in the 1993 Oslo accord, and Hamas was one result. If Palestinians renounce violence and build a democracy to go along with the vibrant economy of the West Bank, their aspirations for statehood will be impossible to deny—least of all by Israel. But the marriage with Hamas takes the Palestinian cause far in the other direction.

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