Thursday, April 24, 2014

Is Obama Really Opposed To A Fatah - Hamas Unity Government?

It is all very well for the State Department to come out with a statement that it is wary of Fatah - Hamas deal. Actually, it would be more reassuring if came out opposed to the idea, based on the realities of the two groups, but what do you expect?

There was a show of the US laying down the law to the Palestinians:
"Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties," the official said, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

"If a new Palestinian government is formed, we will assess it based on its adherence to the stipulations above, its policies and actions, and will determine any implications for our assistance based on U.S. law," the official said.
And US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki provided the same boilerplate:

But is the Obama really opposed to the idea? An article in the Jerusalem Post in 2009 indicatesthe Palestinians themselves are not convince Obama would not welcome a unity government.
"The departure of the Bush administration has paved the way for Palestinian national reconciliation," the PA official said. "In the past, Bush and [former US Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice were totally opposed to talks between Fatah and Hamas."
The lackadaisical approach of the Obama administration towards Palestinian aid only reinforces this impression. That same year, Steven J. Rosen wrote that Obama seeks aid for Palestinian unity government
The Obama Administration is seeking subtle changes in Congressional restrictions banning aid that might reach Hamas. While the prohibition on direct aid to Hamas (in P.L. 110-161) would remain in place, a Palestinian "unity government" that included Hamas could receive aid "if that government were to accept and comply with the Quartet principles," according to a spokesman for the National Security Council. Rep. Nita M. Lowey , D-N.Y., heads the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, which oversees the legislation. Secretary Clinton said "We have worked with the Palestinian Authority to install safeguards that will ensure our funding is only used where and for whom it is intended and does not end up in the wrong hands," but critics believe that these safeguards are already eroding and could fail altogether if Fatah agrees to bring Hamas into a unity governement.
These days, does anyone seriously believe the Obama administration could prevent aid to Fatah from falling into the hands of Hamas? Now you may argue that this is a moot point since aid to a unity government would depend on Hamas meeting those 3 criteria given above:
  • Recognize the state of Israel 
  • Unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence 
  • Accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties
But does Abbas and the Palestinian Authority itself meet any of those 3 requirements? Back in 2008, Joel Mowbray noted that Abbas does not seriously recognize the state of Israel:
Defending his “recognition” of Israel on TV network Al-Arabiya in October 2006, he [Abbas] explained that it was more a practical reality than a meaningful political position. He cited as an example the need for the PA to get $500 million from Israel: “The Palestinian finance minister has to come to an agreement with the Israeli finance minister about the transfer of the money. So how can he make an agreement with him if [the PA finance minister] does not recognize him? So I do not demand of Hamas nor any other to recognize Israel. But from the government that works with Israelis in day to day life, yes.”
Abbas -- someone's idea of a hands on, moderate peace partner.
Does Abbas at least "unambiguously and explicitly" commit to nonviolence? You're kidding, right? Despite Special Envoy George Mitchell's statement in May 9, 2010 about
President Abbas’ statement that he will work against incitement of any sort
it is well documented that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority incite hatred against Israel. Just recently, Abbas's "condemnation" of the murder of Baruch Mizrachi before Passover was vague at best -- and denied. On the other hand, a Palestinian Minister who did condemn the murder was himself condemned by his fellow Palestinians. On the issue of agreements, the his record is similarly unimpressive. When "in charge" of Gaza back in 2005, Abbas refused to reign in the firing of Kassam rockets at Israel from Gaza:
Abbas even said that the Qassam rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel are "Israel's problem" and that he does not intend to interfere. "Let the Israelis deal with it," he said.
More recently, Abbas's latest gambit in avoiding negotiations with Israel entails going to the United Nations (again) to further the legitimacy of his regime -- another one of his actions that violates the agreement to work through negotiation and not unilateral action. Bottom line, considering the low threshold the Obama administration has maintained in order for Abbas to be declared a "moderate peace partner", just how demanding are we supposed to assume the requirements will be for Hamas to accepted as a peace partner as well -- and for the Fatah - Hamas unity government to get the blessing of the Obama administration? Fortunately, we have seen that Abbas is no more capable of negotiating with Hamas than he is willing to sit down with Israel.


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