Yesterday it was Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh bemoaning the killing of Osama bin Laden. Today, it is the supposedly more reasonable half of the announced unity team. The Jerusalem Post reports:
The Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Brigades said Tuesday they were mourning the death of Osama bin Laden, following announcements Sunday that he had been killed in a US raid, Ma’an reported.
According to a statement received by Ma’an, the group said bin Laden’s death “won’t stop our Jihad mission against injustice and occupation,” and added that they doubt the veracity of claims that the al-Qaida leader was assassinated.
It only took a day for the Fatah-affiliated group to scamper after the Hamas leader, stating that “we tell the Israeli and the American occupiers that we have leaders who have changed history with their Jihad and their steadfastness.”
Now we should not make more of this than it is. This is not a statement by Mahmoud Abbas or by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who specifically said bin Laden’s death was a positive development. But it sure does point to the problem with a “unity” government: Who is running the show and what stance would the combined entity take toward Israel and the West more generally? If this is the pattern — a race to the most extreme position dicatated by Hamas — the United States will have no choice but to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority and to abandon Obama’s obsesssion with brokering or foisting on Israel a “peace” deal.
Unless and until the United States and Israel have a precise assessment of who is in charge, what a unity government means, with whom it allies, and whether it will halt violence, abide by past agreements and recognize the Jewish state, we would be wise to put aside the peace process (and talk of a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state). Judging by the past couple of days, the chances of finding a responsible peace partner with whom Israel can make enforceable agreements are slim to none.