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To many observers, the discussion over whether the new Hamas-led Palestinian unity government has adhered to the Quartet's conditions may seem like a semantic debate. The Palestinian's claim that their promise to "respect" past agreements implies fulfillment of all three conditions: accepting past agreements, renouncing terrorism and recognizing Israel's right to exist.
All, however, is not in the eye of the beholder; the problem is not just the new government's insufficient words, but the aggressive actions behind them.
First, even on the declaratory level, the claim that the new government meets the Quartet's conditions is baseless. The PLO under Fatah rampantly violated the agreements it not only "respected," but negotiated and signed. Hamas opposed these agreements from the beginning, and so has even less intention of abiding by them.
The Abbas-controlled Palestinian media continues to broadcast incitement to hatred of Israel, in violation of the Oslo Accords and numerous subsequent commitments. Does anyone expect Hamas to put a stop to this?
It is also obvious that Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist. Indeed, Hamas and its jihadi allies in Hizbullah and Iran openly claim that they are closer to their dream of destroying Israel than they ever were. No vague statement about past agreements changes this.
Finally, far from renouncing terrorism, Hamas - again with characteristic openness - continues to support "all forms of resistance."
But what if, presumably for face-saving reasons, the Palestinian Authority were more willing to fulfill these conditions in spirit than in letter?
There is, after all, a fitful cease-fire in place between Hamas and Israel. Maybe Hamas will act better than it is willing to admit, goes the thinking in nations like France and Norway, which have already announced willingness to deal with the new Hamas-led government.
Unfortunately, there is no basis for such optimism, based not only on the PA's words, but on its actions.
It is indisputable that Hamas is employing the current cease-fire to prepare for a Hizbullah-style war with Israel. Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin recently told the Knesset that Hamas had smuggled in 13 tons of military-quality explosives, six times as much as was brought in during previous terrorism offensives against Israel. Hamas is also bringing in missiles and antitank weapons, extending the range of its rockets, and digging underground fortifications - all on the Hizbullah model and with that organization and Iran's assistance.
This cannot be seen as a defensive buildup, because Hamas knows full well that Israel has no interest in taking military action in Gaza except in response to terrorist attacks. There is not a single Israeli soldier or civilian left for Israel to defend in Gaza. The last thing Israel wants to do is fight a war there. Hamas is busy preparing for the war that at some point it will choose to start.
Hamas's actions speak even louder than its words, which also leave little to the imagination. Accordingly, the reasons the Quartet cut off relations with the PA in the wake of the formation of the first Hamas-led government are as valid as ever. Indeed, Western assistance to the PA should have been cut off long before that election, for the simple reason that the PA, even under Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, would not lift a finger to stop terror attacks against Israel.
The international community cannot have it both ways. It cannot say it wants terrorism against Israel to stop, while opening ties with and bankrolling a PA that is preparing to launch the next terror war. As it is, the UN reports that aid to the PA has actually risen - to more than $1.2 billion per year - since Hamas came to power. This Western assistance is nominally channelled to avoid the Hamas government, while Iran provides additional aid directly to Hamas.
Why would Norway and perhaps France, in the interest of peace, join Iran in aiding Hamas directly? To call this unserious is to be charitable. The Quartet certainly should not follow suit, and should instead tighten sanctions against the PA if it wants to work to stop the countdown to the next war.