Elliott Abrams

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Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Europe and Hamas

by Elliott Abrams
February 22, 2013

The London newspaper Al Hayat carried a story on February 21 about the intentions of EU states to support Hamas participation in a Palestinian “national unity government.”

It seems that “the European boycott of the Palestinian Government formed by Hamas after winning the 2006 elections will not be repeated,”  according to someone described as a “senior European diplomat.” France and Britain want to relaunch the “peace process,” and this time “on a new basis and without preconditions.”  The diplomat is quoted as saying “today there exists an international consensus on the need for the establishment of a Palestinian State….we welcome the entry of Hamas into the PLO and the fact that it accepted the PLO charter.”

If the story is accurate, it represents a significant change in EU policy. Previously, the EU–as part of the Quartet, with the United States, Russia, and the UN–had staunchly supported the “three Quartet principles.” These required that Hamas abandon violence and terror, accept all previous Israel-PLO agreements as binding, and accept Israel’s right to exist. Now it seems the Europeans are asking far less of Hamas–in fact, appear to be asking nothing at all before applauding a role in the Palestinian Authority (PA) and in the PLO for what is officially regarded in the EU as in the United States as a terrorist group.

The dangers here are great. In an article in the Weekly Standard, I discussed the legal problems that Hamas’s participation in the PA would create for the United States because it is a terrorist group. In Tested By Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, the book I’ve just published, the story of what transpired in 2006 is told. What the Quartet decided then was that Hamas could run in the Palestinian parliamentary elections but could not participate in the government unless it met the three conditions noted above. Hamas refused to meet any of them. It didn’t bargain, nor did it lie; it simply refused. That meant that the Russians and Europeans, whom I thought would have abandoned the “Quartet principles” at the drop of a hat, could not do so; Hamas refused to drop a hat.

Now seven years later, Hamas hasn’t changed but the Europeans may have–and may simply be dropping any conditionality. They appear to believe this is the road to successful peace negotiations. Their theory is that President Abbas and his Fatah Party will be afraid to make the necessary compromises unless they are confident Hamas will back them–instead of accusing them of treason. This may well be true, as far as it goes: Abbas, like Arafat before him, may be afraid to make the necessary compromises. But why do the Europeans, or anyone else, believe that Hamas will back any compromises at all? Will they compromise on Jerusalem? On abandoning the so-called “right of return?” On determining a border that allows the large settlement blocs to become Israeli territory? What’s the basis for that belief? And how can the inclusion in the Palestinian government of a terrorist group that is still committing, and justifying, acts of terror persuade Israelis to make the compromises they would need to make?

I have no secret information telling me whether the Al Hayat story is true or false. But if it is true, the Europeans are heading in very much the wrong direction. Giving Hamas a greater role will make peace even harder to attain, because Hamas does not seek peace.

 

Post a Comment 10 Comments

  • Posted by EthanP

    It has become increasingly clear that Europe is rapidly returning to it’s old anti-semitic ways. And as there are already more Muslims in Europe than Jews in the world, there is a strong economic basis to add incentive to this trend. One has only to look to events in Ireland, Norway and France to see where this leads.

  • Posted by Dan

    Old news. The only thing new under the sun is a Jewish state with a crack Jewish army – and the Jewish will to use it.

  • Posted by Aaron Burr

    it’s not so much that EU is becoming more antisemitic; that never really went away even with post WW II “reeducation”. it’s actually that the demographic trend of zero to negative population growth among historical European ethnicity confronted by ever increasing Islamic leaning/sympathetic younger immigrant population in Europe occasioned by an increasing birthrate means that the sanctity of Auschwitz and the Warsaw Ghetto fades into history. this, plus the impotence of current European political “leadership” supports recognition of a sea change, not just a return to the old antisemitism referenced above.

    this is not in anyway good.

  • Posted by Eliyahu

    Of course, the Western European never stopped hating Jews even after the Holocaust. But they were more surreptitious about it. They pretended more convincingly that they were not what they in fact were. Now they’ve dropped their hypocritical mask and are showing their medieval Euro bigotry towards Jews once again. The Middle Ages are back.
    What the large Muslim populations in some Euro countries is to give the governments of those countries a kind of plausible deniability. Now, with their large Muslim minorities, they can claim that, “The Muslims made us do it.” Just like oil was never the real reason for the hostility to Israel of various Western govts.

  • Posted by Jackie

    Many of the nations in the EU abstained when partition of the Mandate was approved by the UN in 1947. hose that voted in favor probably hoped that the Arabs would fulfill their promies to drive Jews into the sea. I was at the UN at the time and heard both the threats of the Arab delegates and listened as my uncle who was covering the sessions for CBS at the time questioned tother delegates, including those from England and France.

  • Posted by Andrew

    It is astounding to me that rather than discuss any of the content of the article, the majority of comments instead focus on the alleged anti-Semitism of Europe, which has either increased or never gone away, and is clearly due to economics, or Muslim immigrants, or historical cycles…

    First, Europe not setting conditions on potential partners for peace is not anti-Semitism, it is changing tack when the previous negotiating positions have failed miserably.

    Second, no matter how many times it is said, challenging the positions of the government of Israel is not anti-Semitism. it is politics. The more people conflate being against Israeli irredentist policies with being anti-Semitic, the more diluted and hackneyed the phrase becomes, and therefore, less likely that people will rally against true anti-Semitism because they are tried of people crying wolf.

    Finally, I think the inclusion or exclusion of Hamas within the PLO is irrelevant, as the Netanyahu government clearly has no desire to negotiate. When the PA and Hamas are at odds, they say there is no partner for peace, and that they can only negotiate with one unified partner. When they seek to reconcile, Netanyahu cries wolf/anti-semitism/terrorism, and says he can’t negotiate with terrorists. Meanwhile, throughout the whole process, Netanyahu seeks to collapse the PA by withholding tax revenue and expanding settlements.

  • Posted by Adi

    It is not that the EU position on Hamas makes them anti-Semitic but that to explain such a position you must conclude that they are either racist or completely delusional. I think history, including recent history, tells us that the likely motivation is the former.

  • Posted by barney rubble

    Netanyahu has consistently demanded negotiations without preconditions which clearly means without requiring Palestinians to cease rocket fire or accept up front Israel’s claim to statehood or land – the EU are simply taking Bibi at his word.

  • Posted by Victor

    Just to address a couple of *valid sounding* points Andrew made earlier, it is certainly not anti-Semitic to oppose Israeli government policies. But when more condemnation is focused on Israel for defending its citizens then is spent on real atrocities around the world (the Assad regime kills tens of thousands, the Chinese attempt to destroy the Tibetan culture), it is hard to come up with any other explanation about what makes Israel such a worthy target. How else would you explain the blatant double standard?

    Second, how can you possibly imagine admitting a group avowed to destroy the other party will improve the chances for successful negotiation?

    Finally, you are indeed correct that including Hamas in negotiations is irrelevant. The Palestinians have consistently demonstrated that they can’t negotiate in good faith or self-govern. What isn’t irrelevant is that recognition of the terrorist group Hamas by the EU as a legitimate government would reward and legitimize their tactics.

    Israel withdrew its soldiers and uprooted its citizens from Gaza. If there was ever a possibility for peace, wouldn’t that have been it? Instead, the Palestinian answer has been a rain of Hamas rockets.

  • Posted by barney rubble

    not sure, Victor, what you mean by Israel “defending its citizens” – are you claiming that refusing to recognise Palestine’s very existence as a state or expanding settlements in violation of the Road Map defends Israelis ?
    are you saying we should treat Assad and Israel the same way ?(rather than Western governments and politicians constantly embracing Israel as a stauch ally and supporting its every move).
    it sounds that way – you seem to be saying we can’t condemn (or presumably impose sanctions on) Israel without doing the same to China … that seems to suggest we can’t sanction anyone eg Hamas unless we also sanction China.
    I can’t see why removing a few 1000 occupiers from Gaza was a concession likely to lead to peace while Israel continues to grab the remaining slivers of Palestinian land in the West Bank and turns Gaza into a prison – in fact Hamas has stopped rocket fire many times – Israel has never complied with the Road Maps settlement freeze (not even during those 9 months which was at best a partial freeze)

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