Burning Issues No. 26: Fading Quartet?

Burning Issues 1-25: Last three: N. Korea nuclear disarmament, Jewish identity and UK Jewry, retaliation for Eilat attack.
Question #26
Russia and France have already stated their support of the new Palestinian unity government. Moscow even pledged to work towards lifting the financial blockade imposed on the PA. Is this the beginning of the end for the Quartet? How will this affect the int'l community's position towards a Hamas-Fatah government and the flow of funds to it? Contributions by Jonathan Tobin, Isi Leibler, Calev Ben-David and Gerlad Steinberg. Calev Ben-David: Coming from the Russians this kind of policy is, alas, not at all surprising, as it reflects an indulgence of Hamas evident in the Putin government since the Palestinian elections a year ago. More disturbing is the news out of France, a major player in the EU that could weaken the consensus on withholding direct aid from the PA until Hamas recognizes the three "Quartet" conditions. Fortunately, at this point it still appears that pressure from the US, and the firm stances of Merkel and Blair on the issue, will prevent for the time being any renewal of foreign aid flowing into the coffers of Hamas. But Israel and its supporters must keep up an effective information campaign to make sure it is thoroughly understood in Europe and elsewhere that despite its entry into a "unity government," Hamas has not moderated its stance and is still a radical Islamic terror movement firmly committed to the destruction of Israel. One bright sign on the horizon is the coming French election and the waxing fortunes of Nicholas Sarkozy, who will likely take a firmer stance against Hamas than the current administration in Paris. One can only hope that in its final months, the Chirac government will not go too far in undermining what thus far has been a helpful and thoroughly justified EU policy toward a Hamas-led PA. Snap Judgment: Something worse than murder Gerald Steinberg: In the year since Hamas won control of the Palestinian Authority (or rather, since Fatah lost these elections), France and Russia have acted with surprising restraint. And the international Quartet, created to avoid the kind of destructive competition between the major powers that contributed to the catastrophic collapse of the Oslo process, has managed to maintain a coherent approach. Hopes that once Hamas was in power, its leaders would somehow become pragmatic were checked against reality, and common sense prevailed. As a result, direct funds for the Palestinian Authority were cut, pending an end to support for terror and renunciation of the goal of destroying Israel. But the leaders of Hamas, particularly those based in Damascus, did not budge, assuming that as in the past, France and Russia would defect from the Quartet. This has now begun, as leaders in Paris and Moscow embrace Hamas under the thin facade of a Palestinian unity government. Other European governments, whose support for false peace processes and Palestinian "moderation" remain unshaken, despite two decades of failure, are likely to follow. Any lessons that might have been learned after Europe placed blind faith in Yasser Arafat as the "only hope for peace" have already been forgotten. This development may well lead to the collapse of the Quartet. The US government will continue to boycott Hamas, while France, Russia and the UN will resume support for the radical Palestinian leadership, linked to Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. As a result, any hopes for a fundamental change that would lead to ending terror and the acceptance of Israel will be delayed for decades. Similarly, this pattern of appeasement is likely to extend to the coming confrontation over Iran's nuclear plans. Manipulating 'civil society' Isi Leibler: That Russia and France propose lifting the blockade on the Palestinian unity government is hardly unexpected. More disconcerting are the zigzags in the approach of our government and the outrageous contradictory statements flowing from cabinet ministers. Initially the government was adamant that we would have no truck with a coalition dominated by Hamas who proclaimed their intention to resume the battle to destroy us at a time of their choosing. We should be grateful that the Bush Administration still insists that it will not countenance financing a Hamas dominated coalition. One must also appreciate the motivation behind the ambivalent statements by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice describing Mahmoud Abbas as a moderate and genuine peace partner. They mistakenly believe that by such gestures they will ingratiate themselves with the moderate Arab states. But this does not apply to Israel. It is scandalous for Prime Minister Olmert to be "kissing" Abbas after the PA leader's merger with Hamas. Besides, in his call for Palestinian unity, Abbas explicitly urged all factions to avoid a civil war and direct their weapons exclusively against their real enemies, the Israelis. If we continue prevaricating we cannot expect the Americans and other parties to fight our battles, and Hamas will inevitably triumph and the funds will be flow back into their coffers. We must now make every effort to convince our friends that appeasing terrorists and Islamic fundamentalists merely whets their appetite for more concessions and reinforce the extremists who will be able to demonstrate that only by steadfastly continuing to promote violence, will they ultimately achieve their global objectives. Birthright Israel... on second thought Jonathan Tobin: One cold war was bad enough. Do the current rulers of the Russian Federation really want another one? That's the question many of us were pondering following a recent speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which he threw down a challenge to American foreign policy on virtually every important front. Washington wisely decided not to be baited by Putin and the story quickly died. After all, despite its size and strategic position, today's Russia is still economically and militarily weak when compared to the United States. But strength is relative and though the Jewish State has worked hard to maintain good relations with Putin, friends of Israel should be deeply concerned by Russia's decision to align itself with Hamas. With Russia and France now ready to abandon Europe's position against recognition and aid for a terrorist government wilting, the United States must stand its ground. So far, the Bush administration has indicated it will not allow itself to be gulled into accepting the fiction that a coalition of Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party is anything but a ploy to restart the aid. But with pressure mounting from "moderate" Arab governments for America to do something for the Palestinians in order to lessen hostility to the U.S. presence in Iraq, the temptation to go along with the Europeans will grow. A revived Russian diplomatic foray into the region only promises more trouble on a host of fronts. Though Russia's primary aim seems to be to undermine the United States rather than to work to destroy Israel, the results of their lack of support for action against Iran's nuclear ambitions and the momentum they have lent to the push for recognition of Hamas are profoundly dangerous for Israel. In the short term, the only answer to this challenge is for the United States and Israel to allow no daylight between their positions on aid to the Palestinians. View from America: Who speaks for the Zionists?