Put yourself in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s shoes.
You govern a country of some 8,000 square miles surrounded by nations that at one time or another vowed to exterminate you and your constituents. Yes, you’ve made peace with a couple of those nations — Jordan and Egypt. The rest of the region remains iffy.
You’re in the middle of peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and then you learn that the leader of that government has brokered a deal with one of the world’s most ferocious terrorist organizations, Hamas. That organization has orchestrated terrorist attacks on your country from the Gaza Strip, which the Palestinian Authority governs.
The PA now wants to form a “unity government” that includes Hamas.
Do they want peace with Israel or not? Netanyahu has called off peace talks because the PA has formed that arrangement with Hamas, which still vows to exterminate Israel.
Can you really blame the Israeli prime minister? I cannot.
Netanyahu is furious with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for agreeing to the Hamas deal.
Having seen some of the damage that Hamas has inflicted on southern Israel myself, I understand fully why Netanyahu has called off the peace talks. I was part of a group that toured Israel in the spring of 2009 and we saw damage done by rocket fire in Sderot and Ashkelon, near the border with Gaza, which had erupted in violence prior to our arrival in Israel.
It’s a blow to Secretary of State John Kerry, who persuaded the sides to talk to each other after they didn’t speak for five years. Kerry still believes a path to peace is still open, but it’s now been littered by the presence of Hamas in this arrangement with one of the principals in the talks.
“He can’t have it both ways,” Netanyahu said of Abbas. “He has to choose: Peace with Israel or a pact with Hamas.”
Netanyahu is right to be angry.