Shortly after the death of Osama bin Laden was announced to the world, a Hamas leader condemned the killing and proclaimed bin Laden “a holy warrior.”
“We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior,” Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, said. “We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs.”
That was Monday. Today, Haniyeh and Hamas are once again part of the Palestinian government thanks to a unity pact it signed with Fatah Wednesday in Cairo.
So an entity that prefers to extol the virtues of the most infamous mass murderer since Hitler is once again part of the dormant Middle East peace process, even though Hamas is not the slightest bit interested in peace with Israel.
Can you say insane?
Since last week’s announcement that Hamas and Fatah, which is led by the current Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, have come together, so to speak, spokesmen for all sides involved have been spinning this agreement in some very revealing ways.
Abbas aide Nabil Shaath told Israel Radio that long-standing demands by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia that Hamas renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist are “unfair, unworkable and do not make sense.”
Keep in mind that statement came from the spokesman for the Palestinian side that supposedly wants peace with Israel.
Shaath quickly contradicted himself and said Hamas “would refrain from any violence … and be interested in the peace process.”
Longtime political observers of the Arab-Israeli peace process are used to contradictory statements from the Arab side, but in the same interview? In the same breath? That must be some kind of record.
Having said that, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s us-or-them ultimatum he publicly made to Abbas may have played well in Israel, but it is painting him as more intransigent than the Palestinians in some parts of the world.
Which may explain why the National Jewish Democratic Council counseled Netanyahu not to use Hamas-Fatah reconciliation to back down from peacemaking.
“The power-sharing agreement between Hamas and Fatah represents a turning point in the current dynamics of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” the NJDC statement said. “We know President Barack Obama and his Administration will monitor this situation exceptionally closely and act decisively, helping Israel to mitigate any potential dangers to its future security this apparent new reality could cause.”
Indeed, the White House has expressed its dismay over the agreement but has stopped short of saying that it will cut off the P.A.
So what does all this mean? For one thing, don’t expect peace talks to resume soon. For another, Fatah’s commitment to the peace process is more questionable than ever, yet the United States will not disengage from the P.A. any more than it will from Pakistan. To pull support from these zones would allow forces more hostile to Israel and the United States — namely, Iran — to happily fill the void.
So for the time being anyway, the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement will change nothing. Except maybe for the political spin.