from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

A Hamas-Fatah Coalition?

April 27, 2011

Blog Post

Khaled Meshal, leader of the militant Palestinian group Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Left: Khaled Meshal, leader of the militant Palestinian group Hamas (Khaled Al Hariri/Courtesy Reuters). Right: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Mohamad Torokman/Courtesy Reuters).

There are news reports of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas to form an interim coalition government that would govern the Palestinian territories for about a year, after which elections would be held. No details are available.

This deal, if it is real, will be interpreted in Israel as a choice by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to make peace with Hamas rather than with Israel. It is hard to see how Israel could negotiate with a Palestinian government half or more of which represents a terrorist group dedicated to attacking the Jewish State. Formally, it is not the Palestinian Authority but the PLO that negotiates with Israel, but that formality will hold little political weight. As this deal does not appear to require Hamas to change one word of its violently anti-Semitic Charter, the new Palestinian government would hardly be a peace partner.

Other questions arise. Will Salam Fayyad, the current prime minister, maintain his post? If not, how will Congress and other donors feel about continuing the aid flow to the PA? Even if Fayyad remains, will Congress vote aid funds for this new half-Hamas government? What will lawyers at the Treasury and State Departments say about the participation of a terrorist group in the PA government? Will it even be legal to give funds to the PA?

We’ll all know more in the coming days, but this move by President Abbas vastly complicates U.S. efforts in the region and the Obama administration’s current negotiations with Prime Minister Netanyahu. How can he be expected to lean far forward in seeking a deal with the Palestinian leadership just when it is leaning away from Israel and toward Hamas?

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