Nature hates a vacuum. Thus it should surprise no one that the recent collapse of the U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority would trigger troubling consequences.
Perhaps most troubling of all is the emergence of the Palestinian Authority’s new unity government, composed of members of Fatah and backed by its heretofore arch rival, Hamas. To Israel’s consternation, rather than objecting to a government that has been given the seal of approval by a terrorist organization bent on Israel’s destruction, the United States has said it will continue to work with this newly cobbled-together Palestinian entity. It’s business as usual.
For those who had previously minimized what appeared to some as American appeasement of Palestinian obstruction and incitement, this latest development may cause an agonizing reappraisal of the Obama administration’s Middle East strategy.
On one hand, because of the geographical and philosophical divide between Hamas and Fatah, Israel and its supporters have in the past derided Abbas as a weak partner, claiming he did not speak for all Palestinians. Now, with the unity government in place, he does, which in theory would seem like a positive step.
On the other hand, there are red lines that Israel, the United States and all civilized countries should never cross. One of those blood-red lines is treating with even a modicum of respect a murderous, utterly contemptible gang such as Hamas.
It is true that the new PA government does not include Hamas activists or political officials (“technocrats” is the neutered euphemism being bandied about to describe the cabinet members). But it is no stretch to assume that any Hamas-backed government would include individuals who share the terrorists’ goal of eschewing peace and destroying Israel.
It’s impossible to say what happens next. Will Hamas, through its newly prominent platform, entertain reform or moderate its stance? Will this Hamas-Fatah rapprochement melt down into bloody fratricide, as have all previous attempts, taking down the government as quickly as it emerged? Will Israel and the United States grow further apart as the White House attempts to show itself more “evenhanded?”
These questions will likely play out, for better or worse, in the months ahead. We predict the U.S.-Israel relationship will not be damaged in the long run. Still, it is disturbing to see Israel’s greatest ally acquiesce in the face of the unmitigated evil that is Hamas.