Dan Diker: On US outreach to Syria and Hamas

Dan Diker is a foreign policy analyst with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He comments from Jerusalem on John Kerry’s trip to the Middle East:

Senator John Kerry’s visit late last week to Gaza and Syria was well received in Tehran. Their response was clear. Israel was hit with rockets from southern Lebanon and Gaza this weekend. Hizbullah denied involvement, but attacks from southern Lebanon do not take place without Hizbullah agreement and a green light from Iran’s Supreme leadership. Hizbullah Deputy Secretary Sheik Naim Kassam made the point in an April 15 2007 interview with the Iranian Arabic language TV station al Qawthar.

Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh reminded us that American outreach is strengthening Hamas and further undermining PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on the Palestinian Street. Senior Fatah officials emphasized the point during my visit to Ramallah this past Friday. A Fatah official told me: “Fatah is not returning to Gaza, Hamas will massacre us.”

American engagement of Hamas reflects a misunderstanding of Palestinian political culture. Palestinian unity is an illusion. Fatah and Hamas hate one another more than Palestinians reject Israel. They are playing a zero sum game for leadership of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas’ Fatah torture sessions (video here and here) make the point. But Washington’s more conciliatory approach has forced Abbas (and Egypt) to honor Hamas and “beg” for national unity and a reconciliation government.

American pursuit of “real cooperation,” as Kerry put it, with Syria’s Bashar Assad — Iran’s key Arab ally, whom the United States believes is key to Hamas and Fatah unity — is a victory for Iran and its proxies and undermines Washington’s Arab allies in the region.

Perhaps the upside to Washington’s engagement policy is that it will likely speed up the imminent collision between radical Islam and the West. The downside is that Israel, which the Arab and Muslim world see as Washington’s democratic proxy in the Middle East, will be forced to pay a heavy price.

UPDATE: FOX News reports that John Kerry is playing mailman for Hamas. Unbeilevable.

Via NRO’s Web Briefing.

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