Fatah-Hamas reconciliation could put Obama in a bind

Last week, as was widely reported, rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah announced that they had agreed to reconcile and will begin discussing the formation of a unity government. The announcement caused Israel to pull out “peace” negotiations, to the relief, no doubt, of all concerned except for John Kerry and a few stray Obama administration members.

The Hamas-Fatah reconciliation has potential implications beyond the demise of “peace talks” that were headed nowhere. As the Jerusalem Post reminds us, U.S. law requires that any Palestinian government must embrace certain principles or else forfeit U.S. aid. That aid currently amounts to $400 million annually.

The principles a unity government would have to embrace are: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence, and respect past agreements with Israel. It seems doubtful, to say the least, that Hamas would participate in a government that embraces all of these principles.

What will the Obama administration do if Fatah and Hamas form a government that does not accept the congressionally mandated principles? In an interview with CNN, Tony Blinken, an assistant to President Obama and a deputy national security adviser, said that the White House is prepared to suspend aid under these circumstances. Blinken added, however, that he doubts there will be a Fatah-Hamas unity government.

Blinken’s doubt seems well-founded. But I also think it’s reasonable to doubt that in the event of such a government, Obama, lawless as he is, would suspend American aid to the Palestinians.

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