Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

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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Will Kerry Continue the Jerusalem-Ramallah Shuttle If Hamas and Fatah Unite?

by Elliott Abrams
April 23, 2014


Secretary of State Kerry has put enormous effort into the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Most recently, there has been talk of a three-way deal wherein Israel releases 426 prisoners (some of them murderers, and some of them citizens of Israel), the United States releases the spy Jonathan Pollard, and the PLO agrees to stay at the negotiating table for a year.

But with today’s news, one has to ask “what is the point?” For today it was announced that Fatah and Hamas “would seek to form an interim unity government within five weeks.” “The announcement was made,” press reports state, “by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, and Azzam al-Ahmed of Fatah, an envoy of internationally backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.”  Of course, similar previous efforts have all failed and this one is likely to fail as well. But it is very striking that while Kerry is working hard to get talks launched, Abbas is working hard to achieve an agreement that would scuttle them.

What is the point of all Kerry’s efforts, and of the difficult steps being called for–such as the release of Pollard and of hundreds of criminals–if talks will never get off the ground in any event? As I noted in a recent blog post, according to news stories

The prime minister of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday praised a shooting that killed an Israeli and wounded his wife and son as they drove through the West Bank the previous evening en route to a Passover meal. Speaking in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh said the attack outside the city of Hebron “brought back life to the path of resistance” against Israel and warned of more attacks in the Palestinian territory.

That’s the same Ismail Haniyeh with whom Abbas is negotiating, and Israel is not going to negotiate with a half-terrorist regime. Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke recently about Abbas’s efforts:

So instead of moving into peace with Israel, he’s moving into peace with Hamas. He has to choose. Does he want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel? You can have one but not the other. I hope he chooses peace, so far he hasn’t done so.

If Abbas chooses Hamas instead of the negotiations with Israel, I would hope the Obama administration denounces that choice and supports Israel in its unwillingness to proceed with the negotiations. I am aware of the legalistic argument against this view: “No, no. Israel is formally negotiating with the PLO, you see, and Hamas is still not in the PLO, so the Palestinian Authority can be a coalition of Fatah and Hamas but Israel can still just negotiate with Fatah through the PLO.”

It seems like nonsense to me. One goal of the new unity government agreement would be to hold elections, by December it is reported, and we may then be right back where we were in 2006. Then, Hamas ran in and won the legislative elections, and our counter-terrorism laws and our principles prevented us from working with a Hamas-dominated government. This could happen again. But even if Hamas does not win a majority, it will have members of the Palestinian parliament and presumably have government ministers with whom we cannot work or even meet. The lesson we should have learned from the mistakes we made in 2006 is that terrorists cannot be allowed to run. The Oslo Accords state that “The nomination of any candidates, parties or coalitions will be refused, and such nomination or registration once made will be canceled, if such candidates, parties or coalitions: (1) commit or advocate racism; or (2) pursue the implementation of their aims by unlawful or non- democratic means.”

As Yossi Beilin, a leader of the Israeli left, once wrote, “There can be no doubt that participation by Hamas in elections held in the Palestinian Authority in January 2006 is a gross violation of the Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement. Hamas is a movement that has, through its covenant, raised the banner of incitement to hate and kill Jews. That this military organization, appearing as a political party, is allowed to abuse democracy is a prize for terror and violence.”

He was right, and the United States should not repeat the error we made in 2006. Secretary Kerry should make it clear to Abbas that choosing a unity government with a terrorist group is choosing to end negotiations with Israel–and that he will end his own efforts should that step be taken.

Post a Comment 14 Comments

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    John Kerry couldn’t find his behind with both hands . This will be one more very sad and sorry foreign policy joke .

  • Posted by Beatrix139

    Neither Abbas nor Haniyeh want peace; they both want power. If peace with Israel was the only way to achieve power, then they would advocate peace. America has got to stop listening to a has-been Europe or we will go down with them. And we’ve got to stop blaming Israel for Palestine’s failures. Israel is far from perfect, but she does want peace.
    Sadat wanted to dump Russia and to acquire the superior power and munitions that America had. Carter didn’t understand power, but his Secretary of State Kissinger did, and it was his shuttle diplomacy that brought Begin and Sadat together. Carter did his part in ironing out the wrinkles at the end. Abbas is playing games with us and is probably a lost cause. But a powerful American could find out what Haniyeh and perhaps Dahlan want or need to pacify their people and offer it along with security so no one has to die this time.

  • Posted by Jassem Othman

    Actually that Mr. Abbas chose terrorism, not peace. He chose a terrorist organization that refuses to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, an organization that calls for the destruction of Israel. In fact, both factions must be REJECTED by the United States and Israel, and above all by the Palestinian people if they really seek (real peace) with their neighbors, the Israelis, because it is impossible to imagine peace under these illegal and evil groups.
    Frankly, the Palestinians are the ones who do not want peace, Mr. Secretary Kerry and the entire Western world should be aware of this. For example, if today Israel abandoned the West Bank, indeed there no a legitimate and rational representative from the Palestinian side, which will ratify an agreement.

  • Posted by Adam

    As you say, the Fatah-Hamas deal is very, very unlikely to actually work, so I for one am rather unconcerned. (Is it the seventh or eighth of its kind that they have announced?) I think Abbas is grasping at straws, and will quickly find a way out and blame Hamas for the failure of the agreement. If he doesn’t, then the first victim of the new regime will be Abbas and his Fatah old-guard clique.

    As for the foolishness of allowing Hamas to run in the Palestinian elections in 2006, well, some would say that we are better served with the true face of the Palestinians rather than this masquerade played by Fatah and endorsed by the U.S. and the EU. Most Israelis have long since stopped kidding themselves about the Palestinians intentions for a lasting peace. Maybe it’s high time the rest of the world did too.

  • Posted by Ira Zornberg

    I do not see it as terrible that Fatah and Hamas create a government that will speak with one voice. It would be worse had Israel, pushed by the US have given up most of the west bank only to find that Hamas, a Jihadi organization would come to power. More important is that the Palestinian side accept the position publicly that Palestinians in Lehanon or Syria who want to return would return to the Palestinian State. It must also take the step of publicly stating that the Jewish people are entitled to their state in their homeland as are Palestinians. The end product should be an economic union of Israel, the Palesinian state and Jordan.

  • Posted by mario Capaldi

    Benjamin listen to an old fighter,it will be only war and war an again war , the West bank includet Gasa belong to Israel,my Philippine friend say to me, wy the arab population in the West bank and Gasa are not intrestet to life in Israel ? send them home to Jordan Libanon Siria there are trouble makers ,Israel want to live in pease and not with trouble makers, Benjamin N. shut make a election in Gasa and in the Westbank and ask how is intrestet to stay with Israel?. The rest send them la sa sel ther are not oyher solution , ther lost the war in 1967 this is the bill

  • Posted by Jacob

    Well, maybe Israel ought to make concessions to the Palestinians such as giving them back what ought to be rightfully theirs (dismantling settlements, return control of East Jerusalem) and help facilitate rather than impede their national aspirations. Perhaps then Palestinians won’t feel the need to turn to violent “martyrs” as their heroes. What Israel needs is an Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert, but instead we’ve got Netanyahu.

  • Posted by Lily

    By the sounds of this exceptionally well-written column, Kerry and his master are history — the Laurel and Hardy of the political stage, bumbling from one fiasco to the next. I’m no fan of Leon Wieseltier, but only a liberal could so comprehensively destroy one of his own, and with such aplomb.


    Mr Abrams, why did it take so long?

  • Posted by ah

    Agreed Jacob. So much of the commentary on this board forgets that point and acts as if Israel is the innocent victim in this charade.

    For everyone else here, the Times of Israel states my view better than I could.

  • Posted by EMT

    If Obama gives Kerry the opportunity again, and the go-ahead, why not? After all, the American people are the ones who are getting the bill.

    If it will be successful or not, everyone knows that neither Obama nor Kerry succeeded in doing anything good for the United States.

    They didn’t succeed with the Arab Spring. They didn’t succeed with Syria and with Egypt, not to forget Saudi Arabia and recently, Putin. Furthermore, they left the Europeans without any possibility to deal with Putin, as their life depends on Russian energy and our president didn’t want to give the go-ahead for the Keystone pipeline to bring the Canadian gas and oil.

    The leaders of our government feel strong when it comes to the only successful small country, Israel. Can someone tell me, what kind of good they did in the last five years, be it Obama or Kerry?

  • Posted by Jassem Othman

    “If it will be successful or not, everyone knows that neither Obama nor Kerry succeeded in doing anything good for the United States….Can someone tell me, what kind of good they did in the last five years, be it Obama or Kerry?”

    Dear ET, there is nothing unique or surprising about that defeatist administration. In fact they did nothing except supporting of Islamic states and the global apology tour where they believes that most of the serious problems in the world are the result of past American actions and that America and Israel are the root cause of most bad things…and recently, whatever their politics are/were bad and terrible, but mostly they putting the blame on the Bush administration. alas!

  • Posted by correcto

    In response to the comment to go back to the ’67 borders and give all of east Jerusalem, Abbas has already stated that this is not enough, that Palestinians all have the right of return ( now overrun Israel), and all this would still not satisfy his demands.
    For its clear he or the Palestinians would never acede anything to Israel, which would reduce tensions, for why would they voluntarily give up the greatest hold on power there has been is in history, that is, the hatred of the Jew.
    So as long as they put forth the flimflam that they are oppressed by the Jews, they will always get world support and dollars, and hold onto tremendous power. And if they negotiate and make peace, they would be out of a job and especially face responsibility for the billions Abbas, his children and his croneys have stolen.

  • Posted by DB

    Jacob, if all it took were concessions from Israel then why didnt the Palestinians make a deal with Olmert or Abbas? Deals were on the table and the Palestinians in the end could not say yes.

    This is before we even talk about what awful Prime Ministers both were and how utterly unpopular they both were with the Israeli voter. If your heroes are a crook and a guy whose decisions directly led to the unnecessary deaths of 1000s of people then you may need to reexamine your moral compass

  • Posted by DB

    ah, that idiotic article shows why Israeli journalists lead the world in stupidity.

    1) When Israel talks about a split between the west bank and gaza, anyone with a braincell knows they are not suggesting that it is a good idea that hamas, PIJ and fatah merge.

    2) Did I miss the bit where Hamas agreed to hand over control of gaza to fatah? Where it stopped trying to operate in WB? What does “no hamas in the government” mean? That some front men are put up so the EU and others can talk to hamas whilst pretending not to talk to hamas?

    3) There will be elections? Mr Issacharoff needs to stay off the crack.

    4) presumably “the rest of the Israeli press” accepted that the hamas-fatah agreement was either worthless or negative because unlike Mr Issacharoff, they are not mentally retarded.

    Just an awful mendacious article, no wonder you like it

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