“If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends,” Moshe Dayan is supposed to have said. “You talk to your enemies.”
That’s the thin reed by which Israel and most American-Jewish groups are clinging in the wake of the announcement of a unity government featuring the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Most of the groups, in fact, are outraged by the P.A.’s fresh embrace of a terrorist organization, and are deeply disappointed that the United States said it would “work with” the new government. More than one organization reminded the White House that the U.S. government might be obliged by law to either review or outright cut off its financial support of the Palestinian Authority if Hamas “participates or has undue influence” in such a government. AIPAC urged Congress “to conduct a thorough review of continued U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority to ensure that the law is completely followed and implemented.”
On the Left, only Americans for Peace Now went so far as to “welcome” the unity government, saying “such unity is vital for empowering the Palestinian leadership to credibly conduct negotiations with Israel and to reliably implement a future peace agreement.” From the center to the right, however, most Jewish organizations, like the Israeli government, fear that Hamas is at best a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” and that “working with” it bestows a mantle of respectability. Contrast AFP’s reassuring words with what Ismail Haniyeh, current prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza, said at a rally on Tuesday: “Palestinian reconciliation aims to unite the Palestinian people against the prime enemy, the Zionist enemy. It aims to pursue the choice of resistance and steadfastness.” That doesn’t sound like the kind of “empowerment” that promises peace.
In the meantime, Israel and her supporters will be closely watching the United States and other governments, and urging them to be vigilant in their dealings with the new unity government. Few want to miss an opportunity to foster credible negotiations, but no one dares hold out much hope when one of the “partners” represents an unapologetic ideology of hate and violence.