A year ago, the Obama administration manhandled Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas into saying yes to a new peace process. It presented him with a rhetorical question, "Would you be willing to restart talks?"
Nine months passed, and just before the negotiations were to conclude, Abbas bolted and partnered with Hamas. He did not have enough stamina to wait until the deadline arrived. He was all too willing to be swayed by the terrorist group. Even Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who represents the moderates in the Israeli government, would agree with this depiction of Abbas. In short, Israel was right to cut its ties with Abbas.
Last week, Abbas spoke before a sympathetic crowd of Israelis, vowing that the security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the Israel Defense Forces was "sacred." According to Abbas, he is well aware of the fact that if there was no Israel to support him, Hamas might make him disappear. That is why continued cooperation was one of his first priorities, he told the crowd.
He has only one ace in the hole: The EU and the U.S. usually prefer Palestinian dictates. They know that Abbas has tried to dodge every attempt to strike a permanent peace deal, and they suspect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want such a deal either. But the world could not be bothered by the truth. As far as the international community is concerned, it is the Israelis who are to blame. This is yet another chapter in what is a long history of preferential treatment.
The U.S. has been angry at Israel, as it has been perceived as the main culprit that stifled the peace effort. Secretary of State John Kerry channeled this anger by arranging a meeting with Abbas just after the latter had announced a new unity government with Hamas. Washington did not unequivocally state that it would cut its ties with Abbas over his deal with Hamas. It only went so far as to say that it would have to reassess its relations with the new government. Such language could result in the U.S. recognizing a Hamas-PA government despite its terrorist hues.
But Israel has no interest in making things worse with the Americans and the Europeans. It should bide its time. Assuming the EU and the U.S. need a time-out before they accept the Palestinian dictate, why antagonize them by discussing explosive issues at the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet. There would be ample time left to pick up a fight with President Barack Obama.
Israel's conduct is like a self-inflicted wound. The leaders of Judea and Samaria settlements claim that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu caved in to U.S. pressure and essentially ground all settlement construction to a halt. If that is true, why hasn't Israel come out with an official announcement? Wouldn't that shift the onus to the Palestinians? If, as Netanyahu claims, this is not true, then the EU and the U.S. can once again claim that Israel is the "bad guy" when it comes to the faltering peace process (even though we all know this is not true). Such a pity.
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, and the far Right in the Likud have acted irresponsibly and have been unwise: instead of putting on a show and pretending that they were saddened by the deadlocked peace talks, they were overcome with joy because they had finally realized they could demand a gradual annexation of Judea and Samaria and the dismantling of the life-saving security fence. Those who doubt Israel's sincerity when it comes to peace have been reinforced by this far-right bare-knuckles approach and they can now use this as solid evidence in their indictment against Israel.
For now, Israel should simply condemn the new Palestinian government and stress that it will only hold talks with Abbas. Israel must realize that patience and silence are politically viable options as well. "Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time" (Amos 5:13).