- - Friday, February 15, 2013

Will President Obama meet with Hamas when he visits Israel next month? The answer should be obvious. Hamas is a terrorist organization committed to Israel’s destruction. Yet, based on Mr. Obama’s record, meeting with Hamas would be a logical step.

Mr. Obama has repeatedly championed Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, as a partner for peace and has pressured Israel to make concessions to Mr. Abbas. In fact, Mr. Obama plans to visit the West Bank in order to demonstrate his support for Mr. Abbas.

This is bewildering, considering that Mr. Abbas is trying to form a unity government with Hamas — a group that has no interest in peace with Israel. Mr. Abbas, therefore, clearly has no desire to make peace.

Hamas‘ public charter calls for Israel’s destruction. Hamas could increase its credibility instantly in the international community by removing this reference. It would not have to change its goal, just the words of its charter. If it did so, Hamas would be embraced by the same countries in Europe that have coddled terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah.

Yet Hamas is unwilling to make this symbolic gesture. That is how deeply Hamas wants to expel, or eliminate, Israel’s 6 million Jews. This is the organization Mr. Abbas is trying to unite with. How can anyone claim Mr. Abbas wants peace?

Mr. Abbas‘ supporters argue that he is being forced to seek an alliance because Hamas is so overwhelmingly popular in the Palestinian territories. If the Palestinian people want Hamas to represent them, how can they possibly be ready to make peace? A true partner for peace would renounce acts of terrorism, not rally behind an organization that celebrates terrorist attacks against innocent civilians.

The recent Israeli elections demonstrated that the Israeli people have no faith in Mr. Abbas. Labor, the only large-scale party advocating peace with Mr. Abbas, picked up a paltry 15 seats. Kadima barely made it into the government, taking only two seats. The vast majority of members of the Knesset agree that Mr. Abbas is not a serious partner for peace.

Still, Mr. Obama continues to champion Mr. Abbas, even as he tries to form an alliance with Hamas. Mr. Obama’s gall is striking: He would never negotiate with al Qaeda or other terrorist groups committed to America’s destruction, but this is exactly what he wants Israel to do.

Mr. Obama has been careful to call on Hamas to renounce violence. In a May 2011 speech, he even said that “no country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction.” In that very same speech, however, the president intimated that Israel must be willing to at least explore negotiations with Hamas because the status quo was unsustainable: “No matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under the current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option.”

In 2011, Hamas and Fatah agreed on a unity government, though the deal fell through later. At the time, Mr. Obama said such an agreement raised “profound and legitimate questions for Israel — how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.”

Since that speech, Hamas and Fatah have given Mr. Obama an unmistakable answer. Hamas still refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, and has continued its campaign of terror and violence against Israeli civilians. Fatah, meanwhile, has tried to destroy Israel’s legitimacy on the world stage and continues to seek an alliance with Hamas.

Despite this, Mr. Obama appears to support a Palestinian government run by Hamas — as long as Mr. Abbas has signed on as a partner.

Mr. Obama refuses to understand that America cannot impose a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. There will be peace only when both sides are ready for peace. It’s clear the Palestinians have not reached this point. If they had, Hamas would not be so overwhelmingly popular.

Mr. Obama should pressure Mr. Abbas to distance himself from Hamas. Until then, the president’s support for Mr. Abbas only serves to legitimize Hamas. Given this fact, is a meeting between Mr. Obama and Hamas really so absurd?

David Meyers, currently pursuing a doctorate in international relations, worked in the White House from 2006 to 2009 and later in the U.S. Senate.