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Elliot Abrams

 
ELLIOT ABRAMS ON THE HAMAS-FATAH RECONCILIATION--

by Rhonda Spivak, posted May 12, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, prior to the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, Elliot Abrams, who has served in foreign policy positions for Republican U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, wrote an article indicating that he  thinks it's time for Israel to do something  regarding the West Bank, to advance the cause of Palestinian independence. This was referred to by many since Abrams, who is currently a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at th e Council on Foreign Relations is hawkish.

Abrams wrote:


 "Israel should start to disentangle itself from governing the West Bank and the Arabs who live in it, and if this cannot be achieved through "negotiations with the Palestinians it should be achieved through Israeli-designed unilateral steps that maximize Israeli security interests. One example: passage in the Knesset of a compensation law buying the home of any settler who wishes voluntarily to move back behind the security fence, whether to Green Line Israel or a major settlement. Another: turning additional areas within the West Bank over to the PA for normal daily governance.  Such moves, which signal an intention to change the ultimate pattern of Israeli settlement in the West Bank, do not require abandoning the IDF’s security role there. Nor do they require or accept a total settlement freeze, which would be counterproductive: Whatever the wisdom of a freeze in outlying settlements that will eventually become part of Palestine, to freeze construction in the major blocs that will remain parts of Israel is to send exactly the wrong message.

Yet, since the  Fatah -Hamas reconciliation, Abrams has written an article entiteld the  "End of the Peace Process" in which he changes his postiion:

I was one of those who, over the past few months, were urging Netanyahu to consider far-reaching steps toward the Palestinians, but that was back in the old days when the PA and Fatah were enemies of Hamas.  Such steps are impossible now in both American and Israeli politics.  The President would be wise to adopt a new policy now: the goal should be to try to avoid Israeli-Palestinian violence, let the Palestinians vote next year, and then see where we stand.  If the President has a second term and the conditions are good he can return to this subject then; for the remainder of his first term it needs to be parked."

Abrams explains his views : http://blogs.cfr.org/abrams/2011/05/06/the-end-of-the-peace-process/

"In choosing to enter a coalition with Hamas, Abbas is abandoning all the advances made to date and abandoning his own former approach.  Cooperation with Israel to improve life in the West Bank and security cooperation against terrorism have now been jettisoned in favor of the appearance of unity.  All of Abbas’s past statements about Hamas as his enemy, Fatah’s enemy, and the PA’s enemy have been put aside in an embrace of Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader.  Under the agreement, elections will be held for the PA presidency and parliament, and for the PLO bodies, in one year, and security forces are to be put under one umbrella.

Why now?  Why Hamas entered this coalition is easy to explain.  Its invaluable support from Syria is as shaky as the Assad "regime itself, and its usual opposition to PA elections is softened by the prospect of winning them.  Moreover, Hamas has long sought to enter and dominate the PLO but was kept out of it.  Abbas’s willingness to let Hamas in is a considerable victory for Hamas.

'But why did Abbas do it?  Public opinion polls suggest that Palestinians want national unity and reconciliation, so Abbas is playing to the voters.  (Whether those voters will be able to distinguish real reconciliation from a façade put up by Hamas and Fatah leaders who hate each other is a different matter.) And Abbas is calling for a September UN vote recognizing an independent Palestinian state, which would be harder to win if the PA manifestly ruled over half the territory only, with Gaza wholly independent.  Abbas may also have felt that with polls showing that Hamas is quite unpopular in Gaza and weaker than in 2006, Fatah should be able to win the PA and PLO elections.

"As to the meaning of all this for the “peace process,” well…..there is no more “peace process.” Abbas has given up on it, just as he has given up on President Obama.  He recently commented to Newsweek that “It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze.  I said OK, I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with a ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, jump. Three times he did it.” Abbas is turning instead to internal politics, and his message to us is “Go away and leave me alone.  I am finished with peace negotiations for now.”  Of course, as he has promised not to run again in next year’s presidential elections, he himself is presumably finished with them forever.  He wants his legacy to be some semblance (no matter how false) of national unity, rather than a difficult and controversial peace agreement with Israel that requires him to make compromises—and be accused of treason by Hamas for each one.  In this sense he is casting himself as a transitional leader between Arafat and whatever comes next, a man too weak to lead his people across to the promised land of real national independence.

"It remains to be seen how the United States and the EU will react to the new situation.  When Hamas won the 2006 elections, the US and EU (with Russian support, briefly) adopted what became known as the Quartet Principles:  “It is the view of the Quartet that all members of a future Palestinian Government must be committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations….”

"Trying to get around the Principles in 2006 and again now, the Palestinian formula is that there will be a non-party technocratic government.  That way, they can say Hamas is not actually participating in the PA government—not yet anyway.  It is a hollow formula, and not only because it merely delays the problem of Hamas’s role until elections are held.  Will “all members” of the new government now truly endorse an absolute end to violence and terror, not simply tactically but morally and permanently?

"In his 2003 Aqaba speech, Abbas said “we

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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