- The Washington Times - Friday, May 13, 2011

News of the Fatah-Hamas unity deal last week shook Israel and the world. Officials are wondering how Palestinian Authority (PA) President MahmoudAbbas, in the midst of arrangements to renew the peace process with Israel, could negotiate a unity government with the terrorist organization Hamas.

Mr. Abbas, disregarding the famous Arab proverb that only donkeys can make the same mistake twice, has indeed repeated a blunder he created with relation to Hamas just four years ago. After losing the Gaza Strip to Hamas in a military coup in 2007, Mr. Abbas today puts the PA in danger of losing the West Bank to Hamas as well.

Mr. Abbas‘ move additionally sets the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in a downward spiral, for no sovereign state can negotiate peace with a terrorist group sworn to its destruction.

Make no mistake - Hamas does not seek peace. The group’s constitution calls for obliteration of the Jewish state, and its leaders echo that sentiment daily.

Hamas‘ disregard for peace and affinity toward jihad is clear. For example, Ismael Haniya, Hamas prime minister in the Gaza Strip, publicly mourned the death of Osama bin Laden this week, calling the archterrorist a “martyr.” He criticized the successful American operation and accused the United States of “murder.”

Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise, as our memories of Palestinian street celebrations following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are clear. It appears that nothing has changed and no lessons have been learned.

While Hamas leaders criticized the killing of bin Laden, Mr. Abbas decided to voice mild support for the U.S. operation. How can the Palestinian “unity” government simultaneously broadcast two contrary messages?

Perhaps Mr. Abbas‘ intent for the new government is a two-pronged strategy: Hamas will speak radically in Arabic to appease the Arab street while he and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will speak moderately in English to please Western ears. Naive at best and dangerous at worst, this strategy shows that Mr. Abbas is underestimating Hamas‘ destructive, manipulative agenda.

Not for peace but rather in hopes of territorial gain, Hamas joined with Mr. Abbas‘ Fatah Party for the sole aim of building terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank, on the hills overlooking Jerusalem.

A primary goal of Hamas is to rebuild the West Bank terrorist network that Israeli security services have dismantled over the past decade. Hamas particularly desires this territory because of its proximity to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport and other Israeli cities. Because of the grave security challenges this area poses to Israel, it is the “land of opportunity” for Hamas.

Under the new Palestinian unity government, Hamas will have ease in implementing its West Bank desires. The group will infuse Judea and Samaria with a jihadist culture reminiscent of the Second Intifada, in which hundreds of Israelis were murdered and thousands wounded.

Israel must prevent this at all costs. The Jewish state cannot allow such reckless danger posed to innocent Israelis and Palestinians. We have a moral obligation to refuse the Fatah-Hamas unity government.

Mr. Abbas understands that the peace process will be pummeled by Hamas, a radical group that has clearly stated that its strategy has no room for Israel. After all, Hamas states publicly that it seeks a united, Islamic Middle East ruled by Shariah law and void of Jews, Christians and nonpracticing Muslims.

For any chance of peace, Israel and the PA must unite to destroy Hamas‘ military capabilities in Gaza rather than accept a Hamas expansion into the West Bank. Any real peace between Israelis and Palestinians must be preceded by a complete demilitarization of Hamas in Gaza.

Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, we have not received quiet but rather thousands of rockets and mortars fired into our civilian towns. If Hamas is allowed to expand into the West Bank, it will create another terrorist base - this time bordering Jerusalem and Israel’s central Tel Aviv region.

Neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority can afford a Gaza replication in the West Bank. Israel and the PA must unite to defeat Hamas and destroy its terrorist infrastructure. We must unite to build up massive defense measures, particularly missile-defense shields, such as the Iron Dome missile-defense system. We also must demand no less than the destruction of Hamas‘ military and terrorism capabilities in Gaza.

Avi Dichter is a current Israeli Knesset member and former Shin Bet director and minister of internal security. He led Israel’s security service during the onslaught of Palestinian terrorism during the Second Intifada.