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Israeli leaders condemned the development. Israel defense minister Ehud Barak called Hamas a “murderous terrorist organization that fires rockets on citizens and recently fired an anti-tank missile at a school bus of students. This is an organization with whom there is nothing to discuss, and therefore we will have no discourse with them.” Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, told the Army Radio station that “hundreds of terrorists will flood the West Bank and therefore we need to prepare for a different situation.” Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Palestinian Authority that there “cannot be peace with both [Israel and Hamas] because Hamas wants to destroy Israel and says so openly. It shoots missiles at our cities, it fires anti-tank missiles at our children. I think that the idea of reconciliation shows the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and raises the question whether Hamas will take over Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] as it has taken over the Gaza Strip.”
Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz announced that Israel will suspend a regular payment of 300 million shekels ($78.4 million) in taxes and customs fees to the Palestinian National Authority. “I think the burden of proof is on the Palestinians, to make it certain, to give us guarantees that money delivered by Israel is not going to the Hamas, is not going to a terrorist organisation, is not going to finance terror operations against Israeli citizens,” he said.
In the United States, White House Chief of Staff William Daley said the Obama administration supports a unity deal as long as “it is on the terms that advance the cause of the peace,” Daley told the American Jewish Committee. “Hamas, however, is a terrorist organization which targets civilians. Any Palestinian government must renounce violence, it must abide by past agreements and it must recognize Israel’s right to exist.” However, he also emphasized the Obama administration’s highly criticized attempt to tie any agreement to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. “For Israel this means stopping settlement growth, ending evictions and demolitions, dismantling outposts and improving access and movement within the West Bank,” he cautioned.
Despite Daley’s remarks, members of Congress were skeptical. Reps. Kay Granger (R-Texas) and Nita Lowey (D-New York), the chairwoman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee sent a letter to PLO president Abbas. “Your current courses of action undermine the purposes and threaten the provision of United States assistance and support,” they wrote. “Our ability to support current and future aid would be severely threatened if you abandon direct negotiations with Israel and continue with your current efforts.” A bipartisan group of lawmakers was even more direct. “The Palestinian Authority has chosen an alliance with violence and extremism over the democratic values that Israel represents,” it said last Thursday, further warning that U.S. foreign aid would not continue to go to a government “that included a group on the US list of foreign terrorist organizations.”
Thus, we are seeing one of the first major developments resulting from the so-called “Arab Spring” which has precipitated upheavals across the entire region. Undoubtedly, this latest deal is tied to the aforementioned re-establishment of relations between Egypt and Iran, facilitated by the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, who had long represented the strongest chance to keep Islamist factions in Egypt, including those in Egypt’s military, in check.
Iranian parliament member Qolam Reza Asadollahi outlined a future envisioned by such a development. “Iran and Egypt’s closeness and establishment of a popular government in Saudi Arabia will change equations in the Middle-East and will leave no room for the influence and infiltration of the Zionist regime and the US,” he told reporters on Sunday.
As of now, U.S. aid continues to flow to the PLO, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heide Bronke-Fulton announced last Thursday. Since 1994, total aid to the PLO has averaged $400 million per year, all in the hope of establishing a two-state solution.
A unity government between Hamas and the PLO in combination with an open border from Egypt into Gaza is a blueprint for disaster with regard to Israel’s survival. It is perhaps the most emphatic realization to date of the Obama administration’s naivete with respect to the unintended consequences of its efforts to push Hosni Mubarak out of power. If this is part of the new “roadmap to peace,” perhaps the Obama administration needs to stop and ask for directions.
Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.
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