The most recent collapse of the tedious and tiresome diplomatic kabuki theater commonly known as the Israeli- Palestinian peace process was wholly predictable.
Once again Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has demonstrated that he is not prepared to make any real compromises for peace. On the contrary, while Israel was making efforts to advance the negotiations with the Palestinians while putting up with the usual US pressure, Abbas signed a pact with Hamas.
Clearly Abbas prefers peace with the terrorist group Hamas over peace with the Jewish State of Israel.
Hamas, lest we forget, is a murderous terror organization that calls daily, as well as in its constitutional charter, for the destruction of Israel. Hamas insists that Muslims are enjoined as a matter of religious doctrine to wage war on Jews and to kill them.
Hamas has fired over 10,000 rockets and missiles at Israel. Over the years, Hamas’ suicide bombers have murdered hundreds of innocent Israeli and American civilians even in the center of Israel’s cities.
It is for this reason that Hamas is designated as a terror organization by the US, the EU, Canada, the UK, Australia, Japan and even Egypt. Hamas does not recognize “human rights” and routinely oppresses women, hangs and murders political opponents, denies freedom of religion to Christians, denies freedom of the press, etc. At every opportunity Hamas leadership rejects the idea of ceasing its terror activities against Israel, or supporting negotiations with Israel, much less recognizing previous diplomatic agreements between Israel and the PA.
This pact between Abbas and Hamas is a direct continuation of the Palestinians’ refusal to advance the peace process negotiations.
In February Abbas rejected the framework principles that were proposed by US Secretary of State John Kerry, and refused to even discuss recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people.
Even more telling, Abbas once again materially breached existing interim peace agreements when he had the PA unilaterally apply to join international agreements (a continuation of its previous material violation when it sought and obtained recognition of “statehood” by the UN General Assembly).
Those of us who have been keenly observing this unfold over the years are hardly surprised. The PA has never actually fulfilled any of its obligations under the various interim peace agreements since its founding in 1994. For example, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement continues unabated on a daily basis in the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps. Even during the current round of failed peace negotiations Tawfiq Tirawi, the influential Fatah Central Committee member, openly rejected coexistence with Israel and called for a return to violent “resistance”: “I say, from a position of responsibility, not a centimeter of Jerusalem will be liberated unless every grain of Palestinian soil is soaked in the blood of its brave people...
What will bring back Jerusalem are the struggle and the resolve... We have conducted negotiations, while not laying down the rifle. It [the rifle] may be resting but we will not neglect our principles. We will rest the fighter’s rest, but each period has its method of struggle.”
Even more significantly, Palestinian terrorists and terrorist groups continue to freely operate and arm themselves despite obligations that mandate they be stopped and their weapons confiscated. The only substantive efforts the PA has ever made to curtail terrorism have been against those Palestinian factions that rival Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, principally Hamas.
Even then these anti-terror actions were taken only when Fatah feared the power and communal influence of its rivals.
A little review of the Fatah-Hamas conflict is in order here: Fatah is the dominant party of the PLO and the ruling party of the PA; while the PLO has been telling the West that it renounced violence and is committed to peace since 1993, many of its member groups, like Fatah, have routinely engaged in terrorism and violence since then, and continue to tell Arabic audiences that the destruction of Israel is still the endgame. Hamas is the religious party, and offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which continues to be committed to Israel’s destruction, and has never pretended to, or flirted with, alternative positions.
In 2006 Hamas, which is not a member of the PLO, democratically won control of the PA’s legislative body. Tensions between Fatah and Hamas had already been on the rise as early as 2005, but after Hamas’ legislative win in 2006, the two groups began to openly fight; by the end of 2006 the violence was in full swing. Having repeatedly failed to reach a deal to share government power, the fighting and violence between them took another turn for the worse in June 2007. By the time the dust had settled in August 2007, hundreds of Palestinians had been brutalized and killed by both sides, and Hamas had taken total control of the Gaza strip.
Since then the PA has been split into two distinct polities – the Fatah-ruled PA and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Both entities believe themselves to be the one true representative of the Palestinian Arab people.
Since this civil war between them, Fatah has sought to make nice with Hamas multiple times so that they can be unified in their “struggle” against Israel. It is only in this context that the PA has ever curtailed terrorism – all in the effort to prevent Hamas from extending its rule beyond Gaza and knocking Fatah out of its top-dog position. Incidentally, this is also why there have been no PA presidential elections since 2005 and no PA legislative elections since 2006, and why Mahmoud Abbas is in the ninth year of his four-year term.
Since 1994, direct financial assistance from the US to the Palestinian Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza has exceeded $5 billion. Since FY2008, US direct assistance has averaged around $600 million: approximately $200m. in direct budgetary assistance; approximately $100m. in “non-lethal” security assistance for the PA in the “West Bank”; approximately $300m. dedicated to project assistance for the “West Bank” and Gaza through US government grants to contracting organizations and NGOs. This doesn’t even consider the billions the US taxpayer has gifted over the decades to the Palestinians via the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Yet despite such US taxpayer largess to the Palestinians, the United States has gotten little return on its expenditures.
Under current US law, American financial aid to the Palestinians will be stopped once a unity deal is reached with an unrepentant Hamas. Despite this likely cut-off in aid, Abbas’ PA continues to be more interested in peace with Hamas than with Israel. That suggests a far more robust resonance of the Hamas message and ideology than anyone cares to admit.
Under the circumstances, it seems idiotic to expect Israel to continue to negotiate with any Palestinian government that is playing nice with Hamas. Likewise, it seems absurd for the US to continue both to push this process along, and to subsidize the Palestinians in their efforts. The US would do well to stand with Israel, rather than attempt to push her into folly.
The author is a Congressman from Texas.