In this week’ s edition of The Weekly Standard, an article entitled “Dangerous Unity,” I discuss the new Palestinian government. Here’s the basic argument:
The new PA government is a non-party, “technocratic” cabinet– and not a Hamas government or one with Hamas participation. For that reason I think the Israeli official reaction is a mistake: it treats this government exactly as it would treat a true coalition government of Fatah and Hamas, where Hamas held seats in the PA parliament and held ministerial or vice-ministerial positions in the government.
The problem is that such a real Hamas role may well be coming, after the PA elections planned for later this year. If Hamas gets a majority, as it did in 2006, the PA would be an entity controlled by a terrorist group–exactly as happened in 2006. If Hamas does not win a majority but has a strong representation in the parliament and a presence in the ministries, we are again faced with a terrorist role in governing the PA. Those are the real dangers ahead, and the current situation is different. The two should not be confused.
In 2006 we in the Bush administration made a mistake in countenancing Hamas’s participation in the elections when it refused to disarm. The United States should not make that same mistake twice, as I explain at length in the Weekly Standard article. Hamas participation is a violation of the Oslo Accords; makes future peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians impossible; rewards terrorism; and violates basic democratic precepts that should apply globally. The latter point is key: no terrorist group should be permitted to contest an election while it remains armed (which gives it unfair electoral advantages, as with Hezbollah in Lebanon) and refuses to commit itself to disarmament. Remember that power-sharing in Northern Ireland was always the goal–but only if and when the IRA agreed to disarm, which eventually happened as part of the Belfast Agreement.
In my view the new PA government does not present a crisis. But the plan to permit Hamas to run in the coming election does, and the United States should say so now–and announce our determined opposition.