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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The New Palestinian Government

by Elliott Abrams
June 10, 2014


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.





Post a Comment 3 Comments

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    Recognizing Hamas in any manner would not be an evolution of policy but disintegration of policy . Kerry , Obama and the rest of the amateurs “advising” them ( Rice , Rhodes , Donilon , Blinken , etc. ) should be called to account for this stupidity . But alas … we might just as well click our “Ruby Slippers” and wish … “There’s no place like home … “

  • Posted by Adam

    Dear Mr. Abrams,

    Admitting the mistake of 2006 is a good step forward. However, the question as to whether to endorse this government or not is a moot point. You have stated yourself that its single purpose is to prepare the election. Simple logic dictates that the U.S. cannot endorse an election with (armed) Hamas participation, so the inevitable conclusion is to reject a government based on this idea. Israel has taken the right step, now the world waits for the U.S. to realize that it it too must do so.

    For too long the U.S. and the EU have played at “the Emperor’s New Clothes” with the Palestinians. They have pretended the the Palestinians could actually deliver a peace agreement when the truth is that they could not given the current Hamas-Fatah divide (amongst many other reasons). Reality has a way of catching up and shattering illusions. I hope these elections will lead to a reevaluation of the Palestinians intentions and capabilities by the U.S. and the EU and a more sober and realistic policy towards them.

  • Posted by EMT

    Dear Mr. Abrams, from the beginning of the Obama presidency and his Cairo speech I have written several articles, expressing my doubts. Having been born in a Muslim country, Tunisia, I consider the Arabs and the Muslims to be decent people. They were our neighbors and friends. Now, I can discuss this subject without any fear or doubt.
    President Bush had advised then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, against the will of the Israelis, to displace all Israelis from the Gaza Strip, in order to give the Palestinians a chance to prove that they are capable of developing that area. Until now, many Israeli families are suffering as a result of this forceful displacement of a thriving community. On the other hand, what advantage have the Palestinians found in this unilateral withdrawal? None at all. They managed to kill Palestinian Authority officials and to install Hamas as the ruling party in Gaza.
    In the seventies, I was in Teheran, organizing exhibitions and conferences, at the request of Mr. Amir Abbas Hoveyda, then Prime Minister, who was a close friend of mine, as well as his family. In the evening I used to visit his mother’s house. One day Mr. Hoveyda brought with him Mr. Nouira, Prime Minister of Tunisia. It was the week when Bourguiba considered signing an agreement with Kaddafi to unify Tunisia with Libbya. I was the one who intervened at that time with the Prime Minister of Iran to advise Mr. Nouira to immediately go back to Tunisia and cancel the deal with Libbya. Mr. Hoveyda agreed with me. This is how this agreement was not signed.
    Coming back to the Middle East, it is a big mistake to trust the Palestinians and to force Israel to make a deal with them. Now everybody can see that it was a miscalculation from the side of the US, followed by the EU, who did not want to go against Obama.

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