Shavuot has come and gone and before we go into Shabbat tomorrow night, I want to return to the issue of the PA-Hamas government in order to provide my readers with additional information. This is particularly for readers in the US, who, I must hope and trust, will be inclined to raise their voices in a variety of venues.
Let us begin with the defense of the decision to support the new government issued by the State Department:
“Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said…that the new government does not include any members of the Hamas terrorist group.
“’It is not a government backed by Hamas. There are no members of Hamas in the government,’ Harf told reporters.”
Excuse me? The fact that Hamas has, very cleverly, withdrawn from participation in this temporary government in no way means it is not a government backed by Hamas. This is precisely what was anticipated: a benign technocrat “front” government, with Hamas lurking behind the scenes. Clearly, Hamas has signed on – not to what the government ostensibly represents with regard to recognizing Israel, etc. But to allowing it to function in the interim because it is expected to serve its own purposes down the road.
I would remind officials at State that Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and his cabinet resigned to make way for this new government. The argument that is it not “backed by Hamas” holds no water. This is no more than that “fancy footwork” to which I have alluded, in this instance with the US doing the dance.
Hamas’s short term goal: PA elections, in which it hopes to achieve considerable success. Remember, the last time Hamas was permitted to run in PA legislative elections, in January 2006, it emerged with a decisive majority in the parliament.
Why, then, give a nod to an arrangement that again permits Hamas to participate in elections? There is a folk saying that applies here: Once burnt, twice shy. Going down this road once was not enough? It is what led to Hamas control in Gaza.
To give Hamas electoral legitimacy now is to give it the opportunity to seize control of the Palestinian Authority areas of Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank). Hamas leaders have been itching to do this, and the way they are playing it, they anticipate that no forcible takeover would be required: it would just come into their hands “legitimately.”
Professor Ephraim Inbar, writing for BESA, concurs that in the present circumstances “Hamas is gaining better access to the West Bank.” He explains (emphasis added):
“…it is hard to believe that Hamas will give up control over the Gaza Strip. The de facto statehood which Hamas enjoys is good business, as it allows for the extraction of taxes and fees. In addition, it serves the extremist Hamas ideology that demands building Islamist political structures and keeping alive the military and theological struggle against the unacceptable Jewish state. Hamas has made it clear that it has not mellowed one bit on this issue. It also hopes to get a better foothold in the West Bank to fortify its role in Palestinian society. Hamas seeks to emulate the road taken by Hezbollah in gaining political hegemony in Lebanon while maintaining a military force independent of the central government.”
As long as there is a radical military force that exists outside of the control of the government – as Hezbollah does in Lebanon – then, declares Inbar, the chances for peace in the region and a stable Palestinian Arab society are diminished. That’s pretty much a “no-brainer.” But, as you will see below, there are multiple legal implications as well.
Are American analysts missing this? Is the US simply naïve, hoping against all logic for good results? There are some who might say so. But I would most assuredly not be one of them. And I suspect that the number of those who are able to believe this any longer has dwindled considerably.
Anne Bayefsky, Director of the Touro Institute, has it exactly right (emphasis added):
“It is about time that pundits stop describing President Obama’s foreign policy as weak. There is a straight line between emboldening Syria’s Assad by calling him a reformer, Egypt’s Morsi a democrat, Turkey’s Erdogan a friend, Iran’s Rouhani a moderate, and now a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, a peace partner.
“Monday’s speedy announcement that the United States will work with and pay for a PLO-Hamas coalition government is a strong and predictable step in an alarming pattern…
”…Asked about Hamas’ continued commitment to militarism, [State Department spokesperson] Psaki responded ‘we’ll continue to evaluate the specifics here.’
“The specifics are simple. One more Jew-hating, Israel-bashing, American foe has been welcomed into Obama’s Islamist inner circle.”
As to the illegalities of what is transpiring, they are happening at multiple levels:
There are the Oslo commitments the PA/PLO made and which Abbas will not honor now.
According to the Oslo 2 Accords (Article XIV (3)), “Except for the Palestinian Police and the Israeli military forces, no other armed forces shall be established or operate in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” See above with reference to a separate, extra-governmental Hamas military force in Gaza.
Interim Agreement of 1995, Chapter 2, Article XIV 4 outlines what weapons are permitted for the PA police, etc. and rockets are not included.
The 1998 Oslo follow-up in the Wye Memorandum requires the PA to “establish and vigorously and continuously implement a systematic program for the collection and appropriate handling of” illegal weapons.
In the Note for the Record attached to the Hebron accord, the Palestinian Authority reaffirmed its commitment to “combat systematically and effectively terrorist organizations and infrastructure.”
That the PA/PLO ignores all of these commitments is hardly surprising. We’d be foolish indeed to expect them to be honored. What is troubling in the extreme is that the international community is content to turn a blind eye here. PA officials never, but never, have their feet held to the fire; the international community simply cuts them whatever slack is necessary. For this willful lapse, international leaders have enormous culpability.
And then there is US law, which restricts aid from going “to Hamas or any entity effectively controlled by Hamas, any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member, or that results from an agreement with Hamas and over which Hamas exercises undue influence.”
This is from the 2006 Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, and the 2012 approps bill.
This is where the Hamas deniability is significant, and where the State Department pretends to buy into the notion that Hamas has no influence over/role in establishing the new government.
And then we have international law, which anti-Israel elements are so quick to invoke improperly – making it up as they go along. This, however, is real and legit:
Article 2 of UN Security Council Resolution 1373 of September 2001, passed under Chapter VII, which means it is binding on all member states, says, inter alia:
“all States shall: (a) Refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts…
(thanks to Salomon B.)