President Barack Obama is campaigning on the claim that he is a great friend of
Israel despite the fact that this is clearly not true. After all, the
announcement of a coalition government between the Palestinian Authority (PA)
and Hamas, a genocidally oriented terrorist group that is openly anti- Semitic
and rejects all of the agreements with Israel on which the PA is based prompts
no US (or European) policy response.
In fact, it is only the extremism of
the region’s radical regimes and movements, their refusal to accept the deals he
offers them, that has prevented Obama from being a disaster for Israel.
Meanwhile, great damage is done to US and Western interests.
to say this, and no one in any Israeli government should do so, but they know
Israel cannot depend on the Obama administration for real support.
a strategy in which Israeli leaders say nice things about Obama, try to be as
cooperative as possible, and are patient – while doing what needs to be done
directly – has worked out precisely because the Obama administration’s policies
For example, the US effort to engage with Iran failed due to
Iranian behavior which forced an end to that policy. The same applies to the
White House’s pro-Syrian policy. And the administration’s hamhanded effort to
push forward the Israel-Palestinian peace process also became a mess that Obama
had to abandon.
Eventually the same thing will happen with the Muslim
Brotherhood when sufficient evidence of its radicalism and anti-Americanism
accumulates that even the White House can no longer ignore it.
this example of how the process works, doing damage but eventually being
In 2010 the Palestinian Authority (PA) made it clear that it would
go to the UN and demand unilateral independence. The Obama administration
should have leapt into action and made it clear that the PA would pay in
financial and strategic terms unless it refrained from taking an action that
violated every agreement it ever signed and would permanently destroy any
remaining shreds of the peace process. (As if its three-year- long unpunished
refusal to negotiate with Israel wasn’t sufficient.)
Instead, the administration
did nothing. Month after month the pressure built, tensions rose, the diplomatic
pressures rose. Finally, at the last moment the rejection of the idea by the key
European states stopped the UN recognition process and saved Obama from having
to cast a veto. But even if the US government act was necessary in the autumn of
2011 there were major costs from its having failed to act earlier.
is now supposed to be counted as a great achievement for Obama in supporting
There is still, however, a parallel issue that also began to be
manifested in more than a year ago: the PA (Fatah)- Hamas alliance. Again, month
after month the Obama administration did nothing as another peace-killing,
commitment- breaking PA strategy unfolded.
Almost a year ago, we were
assured that PA funding would be cut off if this continued. Yet the moves toward
a coalition went on with no Western action. Now we have entered a new phase with
an agreement for an interim unity government being made in Qatar. Hamas,
of course, rejects Israel’s existence and both favors and continues to practice
(if only through smaller groups it allows to do so in the Gaza Strip)
What was the reaction of the Obama administration to this
deal? The State Department called it an “internal matter for the Palestinians.”
The fact is that it is US aid and political clout that keeps the PA an
international factor just as covert Israeli protection largely saves it from
being overthrown by Hamas.
The State Department statement continues: “Any
Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to non-violence.
It must recognize the state of Israel and it must accept the previous agreements
and obligations between the parties, including the road map.”
governments took a similar position. But Hamas hasn’t done this and won’t do it,
despite the nonsense dredged up by various writers about Hamas or its leaders
being or becoming moderate.
Indeed, even the current PA government
doesn’t accept “previous agreements and obligations” because it has sought
unilateral independence without negotiations, repeatedly rejected talks,
continued to spread official incitement to violence against Israelis, and made a
government coalition with Hamas. Indeed, Fatah’s brand-new official Facebook
page shows all of Israel as Palestine and glorifies terrorists who murdered
Despite all of its shortcomings, Israel must work with
the PA on avoiding war and minimizing conflict. But a peace agreement and a
resolution of the conflict? Forget it. That was true in 2000 and a dozen
years later it should be–though for many, isn’t – incredibly obvious.
of this, then, will be ignored. Will this stance lead to disaster? Probably
not. Ironically, we are repeatedly saved by the “honesty” of our enemies,
or more accurately their passion to articulate their ideology; the extremism of
their views; their over-confidence; their strategic shortsightedness; their
internal quarrels; and their need to tell their own people precisely what they
think in order to mobilize support.
In this case, the truth is that Hamas
and Fatah are fundamentally incompatible if only because each wants total power
for itself. The agreement will probably fall apart and no new elections will be
held. And once again we will be told that the policy succeeded. And in a
sense it will be true, albeit only if one can depend on one’s enemies to mess up
the opportunities they have been given.
But at what cost?
Why does the PA
want a deal with Hamas so badly? The PA (and its Fatah rulers) prefers unity
with the Islamists to peace with Israel and needs a single government to
continue pursuing unilateral independence. In addition, however, it recognizes
that the Islamists are the rising force in the region. If the US government is
appeasing the Muslim Brotherhood, the PA needs to be on the side of its own
local Brotherhood branch.
Of course, all this means that peace is further
away; that the Islamists and radical forces become more powerful;
anti-Americanism, ironically funded by the Americans, soars; tens of million of
people – often due to their own choice – are ruled by even worse tyrannies; US
and Western interests in the Middle East are weakened; while violence and
instability are more likely.
Obama’s pyrrhic “victories” are welcomed by
all the pyromaniacs in the Middle East. Here’s how one of the greatest
books ever written about politics and international affairs explains the
situation: “On every side the wicked roam when vileness is
exalted.” (Psalm 12).
The writer is director of global research in
the International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. He is a featured columnist at PJM and
editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.