Yesterday, Hamas decried the killing of Osama bin Laden. That should inform our stance toward a unity government co-led by the bin Laden mourners. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, got it right in a written statement:
“It took less than one week since news of a potential Palestinian unity government for Hamas to demonstrate to the world that they are not a responsible partner for peace in the Middle East.
“It is appalling that Hamas would praise Osama bin Laden as a holy warrior, true believer, and martyr, and condemn his killing. But it is not surprising, considering Hamas’ long and continuing record of targeting innocent men, women, and children in Israel with terrorist attacks.
“The Palestinian Authority should immediately abandon the formation of a unity government that includes Hamas, which continues to prove that peace is not their priority.”
It is not merely the celebrations that should concern us, of course. Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation in Defense of Democracies writes:
While Hamas insists that it has no operational ties to al Qaeda, in the early and mid-1990s Hamas members received paramilitary training and attended Islamist conferences in Sudan, alongside bin Laden and his supporters.
The operational ties were confirmed a decade later, when bin Laden reportedly sent emissaries to Hamas on two separate occasions (September 2000 and January 2001). While most analysts believe Hamas rejected al Qaeda’s offer to coordinate violence against Israel, it appears Hamas never closed the door. In 2002, the Washington Post quoted official U.S. government sources as confirming a loose alliance “between al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hizbullah.”
Over the next few years Hamas fighters were spotted in al-Qaeda training camps and met with an al-Qaeda linked terrorists in Yemen. Schanzer concludes:
Thus, over the course of two decades, Hamas has maintained a relationship with the al Qaeda network. This explains [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh’s lamentations after hearing of bin Laden’s death, and further explains, in part, why the United States has designated Hamas a terrorist organization.
But Hamas’s sympathies for bin Laden hold a deeper meaning now than they did a week ago. Last week, Hamas entered into a unity government with the rival Fatah faction, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority. . . . If the group’s grisly record of suicide bombings and attacks against civilians since its inception in 1988 were not enough, the aforementioned ties between Hamas and al Qaeda should serve as further warning to Washington about the terror group that now appears to have a controlling stake in the Palestinian Authority.
Yet as of this writing the administration has not vowed to cut off funds to a possible unity government. Perhaps Lowey and her congressional colleagues should have something to say about that.