- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Just two weeks after Hamas’ election victory, there are already signs that we may be about to see an effort to recast the organization’s image — to attempt to depict it as a negotiating partner, much as diplomats, politicians and the media did with the image of Yasser Arafat in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

For now, the Bush administration has joined Israel in trying to do just the opposite. On Friday, the State Department, concerned that a Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority will divert funds to terrorism, demanded the return of the $50 million it received during the past year to fund infrastructure projects in the Gaza Strip following the disengagement. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is currently on a five-day visit to the Middle East in order to press Arab governments not to make up the shortfall. Washington’s commendable policy is that until Hamas recognizes Israel and halts its support for terrorism, other nations should refrain from giving non-humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

But the European Union seems to be talking out of both sides of its mouth. On the one hand, EU diplomats regularly insist that Hamas end its involvement in terrorism, while on the other, they vow to continue providing aid to the PA. For example, on Monday, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told the Palestinian Authority that, in the wake of Israeli sanctions, Europe will give the Palestinians as much assistance as it possibly can. The EUbusiness.com Web site includes reprints of articles like this one from AFP, titled “EU could use aid to prod Hamas to moderation — analysts.” The story quotes European analysts criticizing the idea of suspending the aid. “Hamas in government is much more healthy than Hamas out of government,” said former French diplomat and journalist Eric Rouleau. “It cannot live without international aid, and, as a result, one should be able to win welcome concessions, especially as there is a moderate wing to the party that is ready to negotiate with Israel.”

This is precisely what Israel and the United States were assured time and again beginning in December 1988, when Secretary of State George Schultz coaxed Mr. Arafat into mouthing some slogans recognizing that Israel had a right to exist. What followed was a campaign to pressure Israel into negotiating with the supposedly “moderate” Mr. Arafat. By the summer of 1993, Israelis had elected a government led by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that was dovish enough to take the risk of negotiating with the PLO. What followed were seven years of Israeli withdrawals and other concessions, right up to the summer of 2000, when Mr. Arafat rejected extraordinarily generous terms for a two-state settlement with Israel and went to war.

We would not be surprised at all to see a mounting campaign from the EU to put pressure on Israel to negotiate “peace” with Hamas — just as it pressured Israel to conclude a phony peace with Mr. Arafat in the 1990s.

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