Back when Hamas won the elections in the PA, I thought this might be a good omen for the Israeli/Palestinian peace process, such as it is. I congratulated the Palestinian people for their enthusiastic embrace of democracy and hoped that having won such an overwhelming mandate Hamas would moderate their ideology, continue to honor agreements that the previous Palestinian governments had worked out with Israel and get the ball rolling on finally resolving this decade's long mess. [LTAD]
Briefly, it seemed like a new dawn might be emerging in the Middle East, with Sharon having left the scene and a new regime in the PA. Not that I thought Hamas was any great bargain, but it looked like they could pull off the Nixon-going-to-China thing, they having the ideologically approved credibility to negotiate with Israel in the eyes of the Palestinians.
The one little fairly important piece of the puzzle I was missing was that this is the Middle East, common sense doesn't work there. Hamas came right in and refused to recognize the existence of Israel and the various Israeli political parties vying for election were provided with an excellent whipping boy to show how tough they could be against Palestinian terror.
Now that all the political players are in place; the U.S. and the E.U have decided to pull the plug on funding for the PA, until the Hamas-led government either collapses or acquiesces to Israel's demands for recognition and a renunciation of terror. Israel is withholding the millions of dollars it takes from taxes for the PA, so money the PA actually makes itself is also gone. Hamas hasn't reacted well to the pressure and isn't really picking up the whole political give and take thing very quickly. Last week, a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv killed nine Israeli citizens. Even though the bombing was carried out by Islamic Jihad, a faction of Fatah ---our buddy Abu Mazen's outfit ---Hamas got blamed for it and didn't do themselves any favors by not condemning it.
How Hamas might have been able to stop such a bombing with no security forces under its control is a guest ion I have. One would have thought if anyone was in a position to prevent this sort of thing from happening it would have been Abu Mazen, whose Fatah party runs the security forces and has links to the party that carried out the attack. In any case, whoever controls the security forces at this point is to be getting more and more of an academic guestion because they haven't been paid in two months. Soon there may not be any security forces.
Unless, the U.S., the E.U. and Israel are prepared for a complete breakdown of all law and order in the PA, someone has to step in and make a deal with Hamas. Various leaders of Hamas have hinted that they might tolerate the existence of Israel if a deal can be made on borders and money. As usual there are no go options in this on-going conflict, but there are always worse ones. The PA descending into civil war would seem to be a lot worse than trying to meet Hamas half way on some sort of deal to restore funding for a pledge to make their cease-fire permanent and negotiations down the road.
Who knows what the real answer is, I'm just crank who writes a blog, what do I know? The best diplomatic minds in the world have spent decades banging their heads against a wall trying to cut this Gordian's knot, but I do know that one side has to blink, and I say the sooner the better.