Obama’s Palestine Test: Will The U.S. Send Money To A Government That Includes Hamas?


obama3A Wall Street Journal Editorial:

How should the Obama Administration respond to the news that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has signed a deal with Hamas to form a unity government? In 2009, Hillary Clinton was unequivocal. The U.S. “will not deal with, nor in any way fund, a Palestinian government that included Hamas,” said the Secretary of State, unless Hamas renounces terrorism and recognizes Israel.

That stern finger isn’t wagging now. “We are not going to give a grade to this thing until we have a chance to talk to Palestinian Authority leaders about the implications,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, along with the usual throat-clearing about U.S. red lines. She added that the deal was an “internal matter” for Palestinians.

Which is true. What’s also true is that the U.S. has budgeted some $500 million in direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) for the current fiscal year, plus another $232 million for the U.N. welfare agency that deals with the descendants of Palestinian refugees. U.S. law prohibits aid to any Palestinian government that includes Hamas. The question for the Administration is whether it will abide by the law-or search for a legal loophole.

That loophole might be a government of supposedly nonpartisan technocrats on whom both factions can agree. This week’s agreement, reached under Qatari auspices, takes one step in that direction by naming Mr. Abbas to succeed Salam Fayyad as prime minister while retaining his post as president. After that, however, the details of the plan become vague. Question: Would the U.S. continue to fund and train a Palestinian security apparatus that merges with Hamas’s paramilitary units? Let’s hope not.

The Administration may want to put that question to the side and hope for the best-or else for this deal to fall apart, as other deals have in the past. But eventually the U.S. will have to make some determination about the utility of funding a Palestinian government that scorns negotiations with Israel and rarely bothers to pay even lip service to U.S. interests.

So it was last year with the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations (which failed thanks to the Administration) and later at Unesco (which succeeded despite it). We’re assuming there’s a limit to how often even the Obama Administration is prepared to be spurned.

It may not be too late for the U.S. to tell the Palestinians that they cannot bring a terrorist organization into government while continuing to expect American money and sympathy. But that would require sharp and public statements from Mrs. Clinton and President Obama of the kind they have used to rebuke Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Administration likes to tout itself as the best friend Israel has ever had. Its attitude toward Palestinian “reconciliation” is a test of that boast.

{The Wall Street Journal/Matzav.com Newscenter}