Abbas and Obama, meeting again at the White House last month
* Ari Shavit (Ha’aretz): “In early 1997, rumors were rife about the Beilin-Abu Mazen [Abbas’ nom de guerre] agreement, but only a few had the opportunity to see the document with their own eyes or hold it in their hands. I was one of those few. With mouth agape I read the comprehensive outline for peace formulated by two brilliant champions of peace -- one, Israeli, and one, Palestinian. The document left nothing to chance: Mahmoud Abbas is ready to sign a permanent agreement… If we could only get out from under the Likud’s thumb, and get Netanyahu out of office, he will join us, hand in hand, walking toward the two-state solution…
“We understood. We did what was necessary. In 1999, we ousted Likud and Netanyahu. In 2000, we went to the peace summit at Camp David. Whoops, surprise: Abbas didn’t bring the Beilin-Abu Mazen plan to Camp David, or any other draft of a peace proposal. The opposite was true: He was one of the staunchest objectors… But don’t believe we’d give up so quickly. During the fall of 2003 we… in 2008 we … in 2009, we … [And all the time Abbas said no, no, no.] And Abbas has said no in recent months to both Kerry and Obama...
“Take heed: Twenty years of fruitless talks have led to nothing. There is no document that contains any real Palestinian concession with Abbas’ signature. None. There never was, and there never will be… Time passes and the experiences we’ve accumulated have taught both Beilin and me more than a few things. But many others [on the Israeli and international left] haven’t learned a thing. They’re still allowing Abbas to make fools of them, as they wait for the Palestinian Godot, who will never show up.”
* Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post): “Abbas knows that Hamas has not and will not change. Even after the agreement was announced in the Gaza Strip, Hamas leaders continued to voice their opposition to the peace talks with Israel and the two state solution. Abbas also knows that there is nothing ‘historic’ about this agreement, the fourth of its kind since 2007. Palestinians have witnessed many handshakes and kisses between Hamas and Fatah leaders in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Egypt and now the Gaza Strip...”
* “It’s one thing to achieve reconciliation and agreements to implement previous deals. But it’s a completely different thing to achieve real unity and end the division between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas is unlikely to cede control over the Gaza Strip to Abbas. Fatah, for its part, is not going to allow Hamas to establish bases of power in the West Bank.”
* Roger Cohen (New York Times): “Tel Aviv, one of the world’s most attractive cities, has a boom-time purr about it. For all the talk of its isolation – and all the efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement – Israel has an economy as creative as it is successful. Yes, behind its barriers and wall, the status quo is sustainable.
* Throughout this year the Obama administration has pushed the unsustainability argument to make its case for peace. “Today’s status quo, absolutely to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in February. “It is not sustainable. It is illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity, there’s a momentary peace. More recently, President Obama said of Israel: “There comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore.”
* Cohen: “But that ‘point’ of unmanageability is a vanishing one. Backed by the evidence, Netanyahu’s coalition are certain it can be managed. They are right. [Although] Of course, manageability does not equal desirability.”
* Asaf Romirowsky (Ynet): “Palestinian rejectionism of the simple concept of the Jewish state makes a farce of the evenhandedness Washington has thus far pursued. It also shows how ill-informed Washington is about Palestinian national identity, predicated on winning a zero sum struggle with Zionism, not a vision of a state of their own. It would behoove Washington to do a serious reality check of their friends and enemies before they begin to engage in another peace non-starter.”
* Both Republicans and Democrats warn the Palestinian Authority that they won’t get anymore American tax-payers’ money.
You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.
1. “Abbas’s terrible decision for his own people”
2. Extra note: The BBC and Netanyahu
3. “Waiting for the Palestinian Godot” (By Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz, April 24, 2014)
4. Tweets sent by Israeli far-left activist Gershon Baskin (April 24, 2014)
5. “Israel’s sustainable success” (By Roger Cohen, New York Times, April 25, 2014)
6. “ Abbas’s message – My demands, or else” (By Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, April 24, 2014)
7. “Hamas deal last straw for Congress on aid to Palestinians” (By Julian Pecquet, Al-Monitor, April 23, 2014)
8. “The evenhandedness trap” (By Asaf Romirowsky, Ynet, April 25, 2014)
“ABBAS’S TERRIBLE DECISION FOR HIS OWN PEOPLE”
[Note by Tom Gross]
Six days before the scheduled end of the current round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, having said no to every peace proposal put forward by President Barack Obama and John Kerry over the past nine months, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas instead made a pact with the Palestinian terror group Hamas.
Hamas is responsible, since the Oslo peace accords, for murdering and injuring countless Israeli civilians in hundreds of terror attacks.
Its covenant calls for Muslims to wage Jihad not just against Israelis, but to kill Jews in general.
It has fired, or allowed to be fired from its territory, over 10,000 missiles and rockets aimed at Israeli civilians.
(Both the BBC and New York Times -- today’s international edition, front page story by Jodi Rudoren -- make it seem that only the governments of Israel and America believe that Hamas is a terrorist group. What they don’t tell their audience is that dozens of European countries, not to mention Canada, Japan, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand and others, categorize Hamas as a terrorist organization.)
As Israel’s chief negotiator, the moderate politician Tzipi Livni, said yesterday: “The agreement that Mahmoud Abbas signed with Hamas is a bad step. Hamas combines religious Muslim extremist ideology with terrorism and doesn’t recognize our right to exist.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told MSNBC in an interview yesterday that by embracing Hamas “President Abbas had made a terrible decision for peace and, by the way, a terrible decision, I think, for his own people.”
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said in response to Abbas’s move: “Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties. Hamas would need to abide by these principles in order to be a part of the government.”
A senior Hamas official, Hassan Yousef, has already said that the newly announced Palestinian unity government “will not recognize ‘Israel’ and will not give up the resistance” (i.e. terror attacks).
In response to Abbas’s move, Israel’s security cabinet yesterday decided to suspend the talks with the Palestinian Authority.
In fact, the differences between Hamas and Fatah (Abbas’s party) are not so great. Both engage in vicious incitement to murder Jews and have carried out many such attacks. For example, when the Palestinian Minister of Religious Affairs, Mahmoud al-Habbash, denounced the Passover murder last week of an Israeli man on the way to his family Seder meal (and the injuring of his wife and nine-year-old child), Fatah condemned and threatened al-Habbash. (Incidentally, the injured wife of the murdered Israeli is a British citizen, yet I have not read or heard one peep of concern in the British media about the attack – as was the case here too: www.tomgrossmedia.com/TheForgottenRachels.html.
Just this week, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported that Fatah’s “military” wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, announced they “will adhere to the option of armed resistance until the liberation of all of Palestine”. This is a euphemism regularly employed by Fatah to refer to the destruction of Israel.
Earlier this year, Fatah posted a video promising to “turn Tel Aviv into a ball of fire.”
I attach a number of articles below.
Among the articles is one by the center-left writer for Ha’aretz Ari Shavit, appealing to his fellow leftists -- which as he pointed out in other articles in Ha’aretz last month include his fellow columnists and the publisher of Ha’aretz, to “wake up” and stop being so naive about Palestinian intentions. (Last month the publisher of Ha’aretz penned an op-ed in his own paper lambasting Shavit for criticizing his colleagues, whom Shavit compared to the inward-looking anti-Zionist – and often anti-Semitic – ultra-orthodox Jewish cult Neturei Karta, infamous for attending Jobbik rallies in Hungary and Holocaust denial conferences in Iran.)
I also attach a piece by the New York Times columnist and the paper’s former foreign editor, Roger Cohen, who having strongly attacked the Israeli center and right on many occasions in the past, in his article today, is surprisingly understanding of their position and predicament.
(Cohen, who is a subscriber to this list, also picks up in his article on the rapidly growing economic ties between Israel and China, which I discussed in dispatches last month.)
-- Tom Gross
EXTRA NOTE: THE BBC AND NETANYAHU
In his BBC interview with Jeremy Bowen yesterday, Benjamin Netanyahu said the following during the interview, but it was edited out by the BBC and they did not use it in any of the packages they broadcast with the story, which they have been running all last evening and through the night.
Here is the quote by Netanyahu to the BBC that the BBC decided its audiences on its news broadcasts yesterday evening should not hear:
“Test facts. What did I do for peace? I gave a speech to my constituency and I told them we're going to have to have two states for two peoples. That's a first for a Likud Prime Minister. Then I did something that no Prime Minister in Israel ever did. I was the first Prime Minister to freeze construction in the settlements. And then I did something else, which I think is the most agonizing decision of my three tenures, and that was to release these terrorists who murdered Israelis, all for the sake of engaging peace. And I ask you, what did President Abbas do? What has he done? He's done one thing: he embraced the terrorists who are out to destroy the state of Israel.”
JUST SAY NO
Waiting for the Palestinian Godot
Why are we repeatedly surprised every time Mahmoud Abbas fails to sign a peace agreement with Israel?
By Ari Shavit
April 24, 2014
There are some moments a journalist will never forget. In early 1997, Yossi Beilin decided to trust me, and show me the document that proved that peace was within reach. The then-prominent and creative politician from the Labor movement opened up a safe, took out a stack of printed pages, and laid them down on the table like a player with a winning poker hand.
Rumors were rife about the Beilin-Abu Mazen agreement, but only a few had the opportunity to see the document with their own eyes or hold it in their hands. I was one of those few. With mouth agape I read the comprehensive outline for peace that had been formulated 18 months earlier by two brilliant champions of peace -- one, Israeli, and one, Palestinian. The document left nothing to chance: Mahmoud Abbas is ready to sign a permanent agreement. The refugee from Safed had overcome the ghosts of the past and the ideas of the past, and was willing to build a joint Israeli-Palestinian future, based on coexistence. If we could only get out from under the Likud’s thumb, and get Benjamin Netanyahu out of office, he will join us, hand in hand, walking toward the two-state solution. Abbas is a serious partner for true peace, the one with whom we can make a historic breakthrough toward reconciliation.
We understood. We did what was necessary. In 1999, we ousted Likud and Netanyahu. In 2000, we went to the peace summit at Camp David. Whoops, surprise: Abbas didn’t bring the Beilin-Abu Mazen plan to Camp David, or any other draft of a peace proposal. The opposite was true: He was one of the staunchest objectors, and his demand for the right of return prevented any progress.
But don’t believe we’d give up so quickly. During the fall of 2003, as the Geneva Accord was being formulated, it was clear to us that there were no more excuses, and that now, Abbas would sign the new peace agreement and adopt its principles. Whoops, surprise: Abu Mazen sent Yasser Abed Rabbo (a former Palestinian Authority minister) instead, while he stayed in his comfy Ramallah office. No signature, no accord.
But people as steadfast as us don’t give up on our dreams. So in 2008 we got behind Ehud Olmert, and the marathon talks he held with Abbas, and the offer that couldn’t be refused. Whoops, surprise: Abu Mazen didn’t actually refuse, he just disappeared. He didn’t say yes, he didn’t say no, he just vanished without a trace.
Did we start to understand that we were facing the Palestinian Yitzhak Shamir? No, no, no. In the summer of 2009, we even supported Netanyahu, when he made overtures to Abbas with his Bar-Ilan speech, and the settlement freeze. Whoops, surprise: the sophisticated objector didn’t blink, or trip up. He simple refused to dance the tango of peace with the right-wing Israeli leader.
Have we opened our eyes? Of course not. Again, we blamed Netanyahu and Likud, and believed that in 2014, Abu Mazen wouldn’t dare to say no, not to John Kerry. Whoops, surprise: In his own sophisticated, polite way, Abbas has said no in recent months to both Kerry and Barack Obama. Again, the Palestinian president’s position is clear and consistent: The Palestinians must not be required to make concessions. It’s a complicated game – squeezing more and more compromises out of the Israelis, without the Palestinians granting a single real, compromise of their own.
Take heed: Twenty years of fruitless talks have led to nothing. There is no document that contains any real Palestinian concession with Abbas’ signature. None. There never was, and there never will be.
During the 17 years that have gone by since Beilin took that document out of his safe, he’s gotten divorced, remarried, and had grandchildren. I also divorced, remarried, and brought (more) children into the world. Time passes and the experiences we’ve accumulated have taught both Beilin and me more than a few things. But many others haven’t learned a thing. They’re still allowing Abbas to make fools of them, as they wait for the Palestinian Godot, who will never show up.
SOME QUESTIONS AND REMARKS
The following are tweets sent yesterday by Israeli far-left activist Gershon Baskin (from his twitter feed)
April 24, 2014
This is of course not the first time that Hamas & the PLO have agreed on reconciliation.
Implementation is much more difficult than signing Palestinian unity under which flag? Palestine or Hamas? Who’s ideology is it that they unify under?
Will Hamas Ezzedin al Qassam troops merge into the PA security forces or the opposite? Will PA troops take over Rafah crossing?
Will PA security forces continue security coordination with Israel as part of a joint government?
Will the 70,000 PA (Ramallah) employees in Gaza be allowed to go back to work in the Hamas controlled offices, including teachers?
Hamas changed some Gaza school books, which text books will be used? In Gaza Hamas was teaching Hebrew, will they now in the West Bank schools?
Will Gaza return to VAT clearances with Israel? Will Hamas give up its control of the Gaza side of the Erez crossing?
Will beer be allowed back in Gaza? Will women in Gaza be allowed to dress as they like or will the Hamas police still harass women in Gaza?
If there are new Palestinian elections, which is badly needed, will the winner take all? Will both sides respect the outcome of elections?
Will Hamas allow PA newspapers into Gaza?
Will the PA allow Hamas Imams to function in the West Bank?
Will the PA release Hamas prisoners in the West Bank, will Hamas release Fatah prisoners in Gaza?
Will Mohammed Dahlan make and entry? Will he be welcome in the West Bank or in Gaza?
Will the EU and the US continue to provide financial support to Palestine?
Will all of the 133 countries which have recognized the State of Palestine recognize it with a joint government with Hamas?
If there is a joint PLO-Hamas government and Hamas abducts another Israeli soldier will the PA stand behind it or reject it?
If there is a joint PLO-Hamas government and rockets continue to be shot at Israel from Gaza, who will be held responsible?
The Ramallah PA uses about 60% of its budget on Gaza, will it now be allowed to collect taxes in Gaza?
The Ramallah PA pays the electricity and water bills for Gaza, will it now be able to charge for electricity and collect money for water?
Will the hamas Minister of interior who runs a private army be subordinate to the new joint government?
If the unity government will be made of technocrats, what will Ismail Haniyeh be doing in his retirement?
With a new unity government, will Egypt re-open the Rafah border? Will Egypt forget that Hamas-the MB - is still part of the government?
If there is a new unity government and hamas continues to dig tunnels into Israel or Israel, what will the government do?
Hamas clergy regularly preach against Jews and Christians, what sayeth you Palestinian Christians about the unity?
Hamas has said that it will never recognize Israel, does the PLO withdraw its recognition of Israel granted by President Arafat?
Will Abbas demand that to participate in elections Hamas must renounces its covenant of hate?
Hamas implements the death penalty against collaborators. Until now they considered Abbas a collaborator. Will he get the death penalty?
To Netanyahu: the best way to block the Hamas-PLO deal is to make the Palestinians an offer they can’t refuse-end the occupation
If Kerry’s negotiations were real the Palestinian unity deal would not be happening
Kerry’s 9 months gave birth to Palestinian unity, not the end of the occupation
In 9 months of “negotiations” Israel never put an offer on the table. Where is the Israeli proposal?
Where is Netanyahu’s map? doesn’t exist
Hamas is financially bankrupt, will PLO now pay its salaries or fire them?
Yesterday I thought that Kerry’s 9 months were a false pregnancy, but now there is a baby popping out, but not the one expected
Now that there is unity isn’t it time for the Hamas leadership to come back to Palestine? Khaled Mashal pack your bags, Gaza is waiting
The Palestinian Declaration of Independence written by M.Darwish recognizes UN Res181 for Jewish & Arab states in Palestine, what sayeth Hamas?
Hamas Covenant: The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of Moslem Brotherhood in Palestine
Hamas Covenant: The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews)
Initiatives, & so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of Hamas
Hamas: In face of the Jews’ usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised.
Hamas: The day The PLO adopts Islam as its way of life, we will become its soldiers, and fuel for its fire that will burn the enemies.
“IT IS SUSTAINABLE, THOUGH NOT DESIRABLE”
Israel’s Sustainable Success
By Roger Cohen
New York Times
April 25, 2014
LONDON – Hearing an Indian official talk the other day about Delhi’s booming arms trade and ever-closer relationship with Israel, I had a thought that also struck me while listening to Israeli businessmen in Beijing. The idea may be summed up in three words: It is sustainable.
“Pivot to Asia” is a term that might be applied to Israel. Its trade with China has boomed, reaching more than $8 billion in 2013 from a pittance when diplomatic relations were established in 1992 (the same year as with India). Europe huffs and puffs about the West Bank settlements; Asia does business. India has already bought sea-to-sea missiles, radar for a missile-intercept system and communications equipment from Israel.
Tel Aviv, one of the world’s most attractive cities, has a boom-time purr about it. For all the talk of its isolation – and all the efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement – Israel has an economy as creative as it is successful. Yes, it is sustainable.
Behind its barriers and wall, backed by military might, certain of more or less unswerving American support, technologically innovative and democratically stable, Israel has the power to prolong indefinitely its occupation of the West Bank and its dominion over several million Palestinians. The Jewish state has grown steadily stronger in relation to the Palestinians since 1948. There is no reason to believe this trend will ever be reversed. Holding onto all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, while continuing to prosper, is feasible. This, after all, is what Israel has already done for almost a half-century.
It is time to retire the unsustainability nostrum. Facile and inaccurate, it distracts from the inconvenient truth of Israel’s sustainable success.
Throughout this year the Obama administration has pushed the unsustainability argument to make its case for peace. “Today’s status quo, absolutely to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in February. “It is not sustainable. It is illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity, there’s a momentary peace.”
More recently, President Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg View that his question to Benjamin Netanyahu was: “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?”
Obama also said of Israel: “There comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices. Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank?”
But that “point” of unmanageability is a vanishing one. Permanent occupation is what several ministers in Netanyahu’s coalition government advocate. Backed by the evidence, they are certain it can be managed. They are right.
Of course, manageability does not equal desirability. There is no consent of the governed in the West Bank. Dominion over another people is morally corrosive; Jews, of all people, know that. The nationalist-religious credo that the West Bank was land promised to Abraham’s descendants has intensified over the past half-century. Settlers see their work as the culmination of the Zionist idea of settlement. The opposite is true. Israel has undermined its Zionist founders’ commitment to a democratic state governed by laws.
The occupation undercuts Israel’s own Founding Charter of 1948, which promised a state based on “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
These, too, are uncomfortable facts. But the evidence is that Israelis, in their majority, prefer to live with them than believe in a sustainable peace with Palestinians. Trust your neighbor? Been there, tried that. Which brings us to the agreement (yet another) reached this week between Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, the militant Islamist group, to form a unity government and hold elections within six months.
Netanyahu leapt on it to inter the already half-buried peace talks: “Does he want peace with Hamas, or peace with Israel? You can have one but not the other.” But Israelis are smarter than that. They know that any peace with only one Palestinian faction would not amount to peace at all; that without elections, eight years after the last vote, Abbas has no real legitimacy; and that bringing a weakened Hamas under Egyptian suasion into a unity government (if that happens) would increase pressure on Hamas to meet international demands that it recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence and accept previous signed agreements.
Moving toward a two-state peace – the best outcome for both nations – cannot be based either on the myth that Israel’s current situation is unsustainable or on the myth that the Palestinian Authority, as currently constituted, represents the Palestinian national movement. It can only emerge when a majority on both sides believes, based on the facts, that painful compromise in the name of a better future is preferable to manageable conflict fed by the wounds of the past.
MY DEMANDS, OR ELSE
Analysis: Abbas’s message – My demands, or else…
By Khaled Abu Toameh
April 24, 2014
One week before the expiration of the April 29 deadline for peace talks with Israel, PA president has clearly decided to try every available maneuver to exert pressure on Israel, US.
Wednesday’s “historic” agreement between Hamas and Fatah should be seen in the context of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s efforts to send a message to Israel and the US concerning the crisis in the peace talks.
Abbas’s message: Look what I’m capable of doing if you don’t comply with my demands.
Israel cancels planned peace talks meeting after Fatah-Hamas unity deal announced
The timing of the Fatah-Hamas accord is not coincidental. One week before the expiration of the April 29 deadline for the peace talks with Israel, Abbas has clearly decided to try every available maneuver to exert pressure on Israel and the US.
His first move came two weeks ago in the form of a televised ceremony in which he signed applications to join 15 international treaties.
Then came threats to resign, dismantle the PA and “hand the keys back to Israel.”
He later moved on to a tactic aimed at influencing Israeli public opinion. In the past week, he has met with MKs and journalists in a bid to win the sympathy of the Israeli public.
Realizing that his moves have had almost no impact on decision-makers in Israel and the US, Abbas finally resorted to the issue of reconciliation and unity with Hamas.
After years of hostility, he has suddenly discovered that Hamas can be a “real national partner” for his Fatah faction.
Yet Abbas knows that Hamas has not and will not change. Even after the agreement was announced in the Gaza Strip, Hamas leaders continued to voice their opposition to the peace talks with Israel and the twostate solution.
Abbas also knows that there is nothing “historic” about this agreement, the fourth of its kind since 2007. In fact, the latest accord is just another agreement to implement previous agreements and understandings between Hamas and Fatah.
Since 2007, Palestinians have witnessed many handshakes and kisses between Hamas and Fatah leaders in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Egypt and now the Gaza Strip.
In the past three years, similar agreements to implement previous “historic” accords were announced by Fatah and Hamas, but never materialized.
It’s one thing to achieve reconciliation and agreements to implement previous deals. But it’s a completely different thing to achieve real unity and end the division between Fatah and Hamas.
Hamas is unlikely to cede control over the Gaza Strip to Abbas. Fatah, for its part, is not going to allow Hamas to establish bases of power in the West Bank.
Abbas has only one thing in mind: how to extract concessions from Israel and the US. If the new maneuver with Hamas does not work, he will have to think of something else he can pull from his sleeve.
NO MORE AMERICAN TAX-PAYERS MONEY?
Hamas deal last straw for Congress on US aid to Palestinians
By Julian Pecquet
April 23, 2014
Wednesday’s announcement of a reconciliation between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah triggered an instant call for retaliation on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the author of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, called for an immediate suspension of US aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The 2006 law, passed after Hamas won that year’s legislative elections, prohibits support for a “Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority.”
“The Administration must halt aid to the Palestinian Authority and condition any future assistance as leverage to force Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] to abandon this reconciliation with Hamas and to implement real reforms within the PA,” Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs panel on the Middle East, said in a statement. “U.S. law is clear on the prohibition of U.S. assistance to a unity Palestinian government that includes Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, and President [Barack] Obama must not allow one cent of American taxpayer money to help fund this terrorist group.”
Her Democratic counterpart on the subcommittee, Ted Deutch of Florida, issued a similar warning.
“President Abbas now stands at a pivotal crossroad – does he want peace with Israel or reconciliation with Hamas?” Deutch said. “Be certain that the Palestinian Authority will face significant consequences if a unity government is formed that includes terrorist members of Hamas.”
Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, flatly said the move “jeopardizes US assistance.”
The statements follow reports out of Gaza that Hamas and the PLO, which runs the PA in the West Bank, have agreed to form a unity government within five weeks. Such a government would then prepare for elections within the next six months.
“I announce to our people the news that the years of split are over,” Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was quoted as telling reporters in Gaza.
The announcement comes on the heels of the Abbas’ decision to sign 15 UN treaties, a move that had already triggered congressional ire. House appropriators warned earlier this month that they could revisit aid requests as a result of that decision, which the Palestinians said was in response to Israel’s failure to release a fourth and final batch of prisoners under the terms of US-brokered peace talks.
The White House requested $440 million for aid to the West Bank and Gaza in 2014.
The president’s fiscal year 2015 budget request includes $370 million in Economic Support Funds that the State Department says “creates an atmosphere that supports negotiations, encourages broad-based economic growth, promotes democratic governance, and improves the everyday lives of Palestinians, thereby creating an environment supportive of a peace agreement and contributing to the overall stability and security of the region.” It also sets aside $70 million in International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement funding aimed at “reforming the Palestinian Authority (PA) security sector, and sustaining and maintaining the capabilities that the security forces have developed.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said joining forces with Hamas could put aid to the PA in jeopardy.
“Well, obviously, there would be implications,” she told reporters on April 23. “I don’t have those all in front of me … but what we’re going to watch and see here is what happens over the coming hours and days to see what steps are taken by the Palestinians.”
The Palestinian envoy to the United States had no immediate comment.
The 2006 anti-terror law bars aid to a Hamas government unless the group recognizes Israel, dismantles terrorist infrastructure in its jurisdiction and ceases anti-Israel “incitement.” Early reports suggested that’s unlikely to happen, with the Palestinian Information Center quoting Hamas parliamentarian Hassan Youssef as declaring that Hamas would neither recognize Israel nor “give up the resistance.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas would have to choose between Hamas and peace talks with Israel.
“Does he want peace with Hamas, or peace with Israel?” Netanyahu said. “You can have one but not the other. I hope he chooses peace. So far, he hasn’t done so.”
“A unity government with Hamas, within the frame of reference of where Hamas’ position is, turns that government effectively into a terrorist government,” Hillel Frisch, a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, said in a conference call with reporters organized by The Israel Project. “Because it’s a government where a principal member of that government – maybe even the leading member of that government – advocates terrorism against a sovereign United Nations member state. In that sense it would certainly be considered a terrorist entity and might legally be sanctioned with congressional cuts.”
Ironically, Frisch suggested Israel would welcome a unity government – if Hamas turned over a new leaf.
“In fact,” he said, a unity government “would be much better, because any peace talks could possibly result in a peace agreement with all the Palestinians, rather than half the Palestinians.”
“Until now,” he said, “any process that ends up with a peace agreement with Abbas, we know with 100% certainty that come the next day Israel will be attacked with rockets from Gaza.”
Ros-Lehtinen said she’d hold hearings on the PA soon.
“In the coming weeks, I will convene a subcommittee hearing on this issue and many more regarding the PA, Israel and the peace process,” she said. “It’s long past time the US reassess its relationship with the corrupt Abu Mazen and his cronies.”
Her panel is scheduled to hold a hearing next week on Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget request for the Middle East and North Africa. Slated to testify are Anne Patterson, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, and Alina Romanowski, deputy assistant US Agency for International Development administrator.
THE EVENHANDEDNESS TRAP
The evenhandedness trap
By Asaf Romirowsky
April 25, 2014
It is clear that by the end of the month the Obama-Kerry peace initiative will be declared a failure. While the efforts may have been sincere, the lack of historical understanding and reading of the signs doomed these efforts from the beginning.
Historically, what is prevalent among American foreign policy makers is the view that both parties in the negotiations, Israelis and Palestinians, are equal; ergo, they are equally responsible and equally to blame. In itself this is a flawed reading of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead, one must start with the fact that the majority of the Arab-Muslim world has always seen the Jewish state as an abomination.
Famous educator and philosopher John Dewey viewed social hope as an essential component of American democracy, where theology and law are secondary to the free will of people engaged in pragmatic politics. Over the years, many peace brokers have fallen into the trap of wishing to export this form of hope into the Arab mindset that, if adopted, would endear them to American values of Americana. An honest reading of history disproves any of these attempts.
A perfect case study is the 2000 Mitchell Report, the product of a committee headed by former US Senator George Mitchell, who was given the mandate to oversee Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. Three years earlier, Mitchell had succeeded in reaching a peace agreement in Northern Ireland, and he sought to duplicate that same success in the Middle East. Moreover, he identified substantial similarities between the two conflicts.
As Mitchell writes, “I’ve often been asked what lessons Northern Ireland holds for other conflicts, especially the Middle East. I’ll try to answer that question now. I begin with caution. Each human being is unique. Each human society is unique. It follows logically, then, that no two conflicts are the same. Much as we would like it, there is no magic formula which, once discovered, can be used to end all conflicts. But there are certain principles that I believe are universal in their reach. They arise out of my beliefs, and they were validated for me by my experience in Northern Ireland. I call them the Principles of Peace. First, I believe there’s no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended. They’re created and sustained by human beings. They can be ended by human beings. No matter how ancient the conflict, no matter how hateful, no matter how hurtful, peace can prevail.”
Mitchell’s conclusions mirror the Dewy mindset but go further to demand a peace which, despite his talk of uniqueness, lacks any understanding of the actual Middle Eastern environment.
Reaching a peace agreement freely, as a pragmatic repudiation of local culture and history, is an integral part of American democracy and negotiating style. Mitchell worked from the premise that freely reached agreements would facilitate compromise between warring parties, just as they do in America. His challenge, however, was to convince all the parties that the democratic ideals he proposed were above the details of the conflict would facilitate success. This did not occur.
Mitchell’s legacy to the Obama-Kerry team has been the foundation for discussing peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on Confidence Building Measures (CBM). Like many others, he believed the basis for creating peace required building trust, both in Ireland and Israel, and he omitted addressing responsibility or fault. Thus, one of Northern Ireland’s greatest successes lay not in the peace agreement, but in overcoming the rivalry between Catholic and Protestant victimization complexes. Unfortunately, a sense of victimhood is the core of Palestinian identity; Israel’s creation is the original sin.
There are important contrasts between Mitchell and Kerry-Obama, principally the belief that the only trust they need to gain is from the Palestinians. Unlike Mitchell, Obama and Kerry have made it quite clear that Israel is the “real” obstacle to peace. But US support for Palestinian statehood, despite the Palestinians’ obvious and overwhelming endorsement of terrorism, has brought US policy towards the Palestinians into contradiction with other policies towards radical Islam. Going forward after this latest failure of negotiations is to tie its Palestinian policy, and its policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict, with wider US goals of regional stability and development.
Palestinian rejectionism of the simple concept of the Jewish state makes a farce of the evenhandedness Washington has thus far pursued. It also shows how ill-informed Washington is about Palestinian national identity, predicated on winning a zero sum struggle with Zionism, not a vision of a state of their own. With such a radical lack of empathy there can be little social hope.
Finally, it would behoove Washington to do a serious reality check of their friends and enemies before they begin to engage in another peace non-starter.