By Gordon Haas
When working on Middle East policy one can never be surprised by the turn of events. While we had hoped for peace talks what we got instead was a Hamas–Fatah unity government. Abbas continually refuses to sit down at the negotiating table. He has chosen to align himself with terrorists instead of peace.
Within the CRC we are greatly concerned at the formation of the Palestinian unity government and its implications for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The inclusion of Hamas at any level of a Palestinian government undermines the goal of the United States and Israel for a negotiated settlement of a two-state solution, a goal this Federation has long supported. We have written a concise statement that you can find on the Federation website.
As witnessed this past year, Israel has consistently proven its willingness to engage in serious negotiations and has done so several times since the beginning of the Oslo process. I know that there are a lot of viewpoints on this as to whether or not Israel could have done more or less, but the fact is that Israel was there at the table, willing to talk. Working things out, envisioning a future where Israelis and Arabs live side-by-side thriving in partnership with gains in entrepreneurship and safer and more prosperous lives.
I do understand that it is a benefit of the Palestinian community in Gaza and the West Bank to come together and work on their own differences before becoming a full country. Since the borders between Gaza and Egypt have become tighter, Hamas' access too many things has dried up. It is time for them to focus on the welfare of their own people and seek a change of course.
But as a group concerned about the safety and security of Israel, we can only wish that this could happen under the guidelines of the Quartet's roadmap for peace.
Hamas is considered by the U.S. Government as a terrorist organization. The empowering of Hamas as an acceptable partner in Palestinian governance, without Hamas' acceptance and adherence to the Quartet’s longstanding principles, is detrimental to a just resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
In resolution 1850, the UN Security Council endorsed the Quartet Principles in preparation for the 2010 peace talks. Abbas has accepted these principals. They are:
- A Palestinian state must recognize the State of Israel without prejudging what various grievances or claims are appropriate,
- Abide by previous diplomatic agreements, and
- Renounce violence as a means of achieving goals.
The Palestinians should also keep to their agreement that while engaging in negotiations they will not try to advocate for a one-state solution at the United Nations.
We believe that lasting peace can only be based on mutual recognition, ending terror and incitement, and committing to the two-state solution.
Hamas has continuously engaged in violence against Israel, smuggling weapons, and accepting support from Iran to boost its guerrilla military operations. Remember Cast Lead in 2011. Thousands of deadly Hamas rockets were launched into Israel targeting innocent Israeli civilians as Hamas made it clear that it remained a terrorist organization whose primary purpose is the destruction of the State of Israel.
Current U.S. law states that no taxpayer funds can be provided to a Palestinian government in which Hamas or other terrorist groups participate or has undue influence. Hamas' official charter still calls for “the obliteration or dissolution of Israel.” We cannot accept the possibility of any existential threats to Israel.
We must learn from the past; in 2007, the United States supported elections in Gaza and the West Bank. Following these elections, Hamas violently took Gaza over from Fatah and has engaged as renegades in violent guerrilla warfare ever since. The trust factor of even saying only technocrats are included in the unity government is still hard to accept. Someone has to tell the technocrats what to do!
We understand that the U.S. Administration will wait and see how the unity government proceeds and what challenges Israel faces on its borders. We ask that they keep a long-term view and consider unforeseen circumstances. The United States cannot allow any increased security risks for Israel.
This month going forward might be a rocky one for Israel. We are awaiting the outcome of the Iran negotiations in July, the Presbyterian vote on Boycott, Divestment and Sanction resolutions in mid-June, and the next steps of the unity government. We will see what lies ahead and keep you informed of the challenges we face.