Mahmoud Abbas must be great at cards.
The PLO chief has no real assets to speak of.
He’s physically unattractive. He has zero charisma. He’s old.
And no matter how hard he tries, Abbas can’t do much of anything to dampen public support for Hamas or raise public support for himself. By many accounts, if elections are ever held, Hamas would win them in a walk.
As for money, beyond the PLO’s slush fund, all Abbas has is what outsiders give him. He is completely dependent on the Americans, the Israelis, the Europeans and the Gulf states. Without them, he would have nothing to buy people’s loyalty with.
If the money ever stops coming in, he’ll go broke and lose power immediately.
Militarily, if Israel ever stops lending military support to Abbas’s forces, it will be a matter of weeks, or perhaps days, before Abbas will be forced to surrender to Hamas.
And yet today Abbas is sitting pretty on the top of the volcano that is Arab politics, dictating terms for people with real power while playing mind-boggling radical politics.
And he’s winning big.
This has been a great year for Abbas. In exchange for agreeing to humor the Obama administration with “negotiations” consisting of rejecting pro-Palestinian American peace proposals while refusing face-to-face contact with Israel for nine months, he got the Americans to force Israel to release several dozen terrorist murderers from prison.
He then abandoned the negotiations and effectively ended the peace process when he signed onto 15 international agreements as “the president of Palestine,” seeking to gain international recognition for a Palestinian state that is in a de facto state of war with Israel.
From there he went on secure his own power at the helm of Palestinian politics by signing the unity deal with Hamas.
It’s a win-win deal for Abbas and the genocidal jihadist group.
The deal frees Hamas from the financial burden of governing Gaza. The slack will be made up by the PA’s US, European and Israeli-financed budget. Hamas will be able to go back to using all of its own funds to run its 20,000-man army and expand its already massive arsenal of missiles.
Just as important, it will be able to rebuild its military and political infrastructures in Judea and Samaria.
Moreover, as a partner in the government, Hamas will have veto power over many of the Palestinian Authority’s governing decisions, so there will be no negotiations, no recognition, no cessation of terror assaults and no peace with Israel with this Palestinian government. Then again, none of these things was forthcoming with Abbas at the helm at any time.
As for Abbas, by signing the deal, he gets to deploy a ceremonial force to Gaza that will enable him to tell willfully credulous Americans that he is now in charge of Gaza, so they should feel comfortable giving him more taxpayer funds.
Abbas’s unity deal with Hamas renders the entire Palestinian Authority a terrorist organization. Modeled on Hezbollah’s deal with the Lebanese political leadership, the unity agreement formalizes the PLO’s role as Hamas’s protector and defender on the international scene. And it enables Hamas, as a member of the PA, to receive open assistance of every kind for its terrorist operations in Gaza and Judea and Samaria alike.
Since unlike Fatah, Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by Israel, the US, the EU, the unity deal makes it unlawful for any of them to continue to cooperate with, let alone support, the PA in any way.
But that doesn’t seem to matter.
The US and the EU raced to see which one would recognize the new government first, while pledging to continue funding the PA to the tune of nearly $2 billion per year.
In Israel, the Left, led by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, insists that Israel mustn’t cut off the PA, for doing so would end the peace process, which of course would be a disaster.
As for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the rest of his government, their non-rhetorical responses have been anemic.
So far the only financial steps the government has taken to curtail funding to the PA involves using some of the tax revenues Israel transmits to the PA to pay off some of the massive debt the Palestinians owe the Israel Electric Corporation. But Israel still turns over the remaining tax revenues to the PA. Israel remains the PA’s financial lifeline.
And this brings us back to Abbas.
Abbas is a successful politician because he knows what he wants and he is able to make the most of the cards he’s been dealt.
Abbas knows that his American, European and Israeli supporters are convinced they can’t make it without him. They don’t care that he is a radical. They will believe any lie – no matter how flimsy – to keep up the game of proclaiming him a moderate and a man of peace.
Abbas was certain that the same US, EU and Israeli Left that supported him through his demand to free terrorists, and to abrogate the property rights of Jews, the same forces that uphold him despite his rejection of Israel’s right to exist, his material breaches of the agreements he personally signed, and his general bad faith, would support his decision to join forces with Hamas.
The Israeli Left’s support for Abbas makes sense. Without Abbas it has no reason to exist. Without the myth that Israel has a Palestinian partner in peace, no one would give the likes of Livni the time of day. So she clings to him.
As for Netanyahu and his allies, their paralysis isn’t rooted in dependence on Abbas. They, like Israel would be far better off without him.
They are paralyzed by their fear of President Barack Obama.
Netanyahu and his colleagues know that like Abbas, the Obama administration has no problem with Hamas. Obama was courting Hamas through his then-campaign adviser Robert Malley as early as the 2008 presidential election. Malley is now a senior director on Obama’s National Security Council. And according to media reports in the US, Obama’s representatives have been holding talks with Hamas for the past six months.
In her statement on the new Fatah-Hamas government, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki didn’t even pretend that the administration has a problem supporting the terror tag team. Psaki said that since Hamas terrorists are not serving as ministers in the “technocratic” government that serves at their pleasure, the US will continue funding it.
This leaves us with the US Congress.
Congress may cut off funding to the PA despite Israeli cowardice. Certainly, initial responses from Republican and Democratic leaders alike have signaled that US lawmakers intend to abide by the laws that they passed and end all US financing of the PA terror government.
But it is still early in the game.
Congress understands that voting to cut off aid to the PA places its members on a collision course with the administration.
That’s fine for Republicans. But for Democrats, choosing the law over Obama may be a bridge too far. Past attempts have all failed.
And this brings us back to our frightened leaders.
All of Abbas’s great accomplishments over the past year have harmed Israel. Israel is more isolated today than it has ever been.
And this isolation redounds in large part to Abbas’s ability to exploit the US’s addiction to him. His success not only in forming the government with Hamas, but in securing US and EU support for it, is the worst blow so far. Israel now finds itself weaker diplomatically not only than Abbas, but than a genocidal terrorist group run by Iran.
This simply cannot continue.
The fact is that Israel has gotten nothing from playing along with American coddling of Abbas. It receives less support from Obama every day. And its willingness to go along to get along has demoralized and angered the Republicans who oppose what Obama is doing. It has given cover to Democrats who are loath to oppose the White House.
The time has come for Israel to stop playing this game, where the PLO gets to materially breach its agreements and so render them effectively null and void, while Israel, the sucker, keeps upholding them.
The time has come for Israel to stop collecting tax revenues for the PA. All of the money Israel collects and transfers to the PA is now serving Hamas directly.
And it isn’t enough to keep collecting, but stop transferring the revenues. The monies always end up being transferred eventually.
The only way to end this is by actually ceasing to serve as the PA’s taxman.
Obama won’t like it. But what’s he going to do? Facilitate Iran’s nuclear weapons program? Blame Israel for Palestinian aggression against it? Recognize and fund Hamas? The only way to get off this train is to get off. And disembarking is also the only way to impact US behavior. No single act by Israel will do more to empower the US Congress to stop funding the Palestinians than that.
And once that happens, a virtuous circle is formed, where at a minimum, Abbas’s winning streak will end.
Caroline B. Glick is the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.