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April 27, 2011
Abbas's farewell to peace process -- embraces Hamas in Palestinian reconciliation deal
It took a long while but Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party and its rival Hamas claim to have finally reached a national reconciliation deal, including agreement on an interim government for both the West Bank and Gaza, followed by general elections in a year.
Specifics about the deal, brokered by Egypt, are fairly scant. But this hardly matters. Fatah and Hamas have gone down that cul-de-sac before with a short-lived "unity" government that collapsed four years ago when Hamas, in a bloody coup, chased Abbas and Fatah out of Gaza.
In the course of this "unity" government, Hamas stuck to its own terrorist agenda to eliminate Israel with whatever violent means will do the job. As a result, the West cut off ties and financial to the Palestinians, since both the United States and the European Union accurately label Hamas a terrorist group.
So, if Palestinian "Unity 2" is a repeat of "Unity 1," will President Obama stick by the policy of his predecessor, George W. Bush, and shun this new interim government if, as expected, Hamas continues to reject U.S. demands that it renounce violence, recognize Israel and comply with previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements? Or will Obama fudge these criteria in line with his predilection for "engagement" with bad characters on the world stage?
For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu already has laid down his own gauntlet to Abbas, telling him that he can make peace with Israel, or make peace with Hamas, but he can't make peace with both.
Abbas, however, has shown little regard for the peace process or peace negotiations, turning his back on both Obama and Netanyahu. He's opting instead to curry favor and support from the "intentional community" to get the UN to bless his dubious strategy for a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood.
His embrace of Hamas in another "unity" government merely puts the final nail in the peace-process coffin.
Update -- Rob Miller adds:
Hamas and Fatah have signed a reconciliation deal in Cairo, agreeing to an interim government and setting a date for elections in a year's time. The deal was brokered by Egypt's intelligence service.
In a statement carried by the Egyptian state news agency MENA, the intelligence service said the deal was signed by a Hamas delegation led by Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the Hamas' politburo, and Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad.
"The consultations resulted in full understandings on all points of discussions, including setting up an interim agreement with specific tasks and to set a date for election," the statement said.
Egypt is going to invite all 'Palestinian' factions to sign a national reconciliation agreement in Cairo in the next few days, and spokesmen for both Hamas and Fatah confirmed that "all differences" have been worked out.
The discussions were held with the Hamas delegation was meeting with officials in Cairo and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sitting down with an Egyptian diplomat in Ramallah.
In the meeting with Egyptian Ambassador to the PA Yasser Othman, Abbas said, "Egypt is the backbone of our people's aspirations toward having an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital," according to the Palestinian Authority news agency WAFA.
Hamas, of course, is a genocidal organization that does not recognize Israel and is officially designated as a terrorist organization under US law. If Hamas becomes part of the 'Palestinian' government, the US is required by laws to break off all ties with it. This is definitely a curve ball for the Obama Administration. However I have no doubt President Obama is going to try to keep business as usual going unless he's challenged by Congress.
Even more interesting is how the Israelis are going to look at this.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a recorded video message in response saying that the "Palestinian Authority needs to choose between peace with the people of Israel and peace with Hamas. You cannot have peace with both, because Hamas aspires to destroy the State of Israel, and it says so openly."
"Hamas fires rockets at our cities and anti-tank missiles at our children. I think the mere idea of reconciliation demonstrates the Palestinian Authority's weakness, and brings up the question of whether Hamas will take over Judea and Samaria as it did Gaza."
Netanyahu added: "I hope the PA makes the right choice - to choose peace with Israel. The choice is hers."
Abbas has obviously made his choice and obviously feels he has nothing to lose and everything to gain. This is, to all intents and purposes a declaration of war. Will the Israelis declare the agreements with the Palestinian Authority null and void and start treating Fatah as the hostile entity it is?
Rob Miller blogs at Joshuapundit