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September 23, 2006
Abbas: Back To Zero On Unity Government

Mahmoud Abbas will have to wipe the egg off of his face after his stunning announcement at the UN proved false. He now says that all efforts to form a unity government for the Palestinian Authority have returned to the drawing board when Ismail Haniyeh and the rest of Hamas refused to join if they had to recognize Israel's right to exist (h/t CQ reader Cynic):

Efforts to form a Palestinian government acceptable to the West have gone "back to zero," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday, a day after Hamas said a coalition government that recognizes Israel is unacceptable.

The Islamic militant group has ruled alone since March, but this month agreed to share power with Abbas' moderate
Fatah Party in hopes of ending a crippling international aid boycott of the Palestinian Authority.

The Hamas-Fatah coalition deal sidestepped recognition of Israel. Instead, it said the government would seek to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel, which implies recognition. However, the U.S. and Israel demanded a clear commitment from Hamas on the subject, and Abbas was forced to revisit the issue.

At the United Nations on Thursday, Abbas indicated a national unity government would recognize the Jewish state. But Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh from the Islamic militant Hamas group declared the next day that he would not lead a coalition that recognizes Israel.

The announcement on Thursday seemed very odd, but Abbas appeared very confident in the message. As I said at the time, it went beyond the usual offers of hudna and promised a permanent shift in the goals of the Palestinians from the annihilation of Israel to a two-state solution. Either Abbas would become a historical figure or he was history when he returned to the West Bank.

It seems the latter is more likely now. Either Haniyeh betrayed him or he seriously misjudged his ability to push that kind of solution onto Hamas. They have no reason to bend, after all, since they won the last elections. Hamas wants the aid spigots turned back on, but they've refused to bend on their goal of destroying Israel to restore the aid payments. Even with the promise of Western support, Hamas still will not promise to live in peace.

Abbas has done us a favor, although it certainly wasn't his intention. He showed yet again that engagement with the Hamas terrorists is an exercise in futility, even for other Palestinians. The Israelis have no partner for peace in the territories, and Abbas is nothing more than an empty suit at the moment. It will take a civil war among the Palestinians before responsible leadership can emerge that will have the mandate to reach a peaceful co-existence with Israel, and perhaps the best solution is to get out the way and let the Palestinians finally go to it.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 23, 2006 10:30 AM

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