With one-third of the Palestinians’ Hamas-led government now under arrest by Israel, the escalation in Israeli-Palestinian relations has moved beyond military confrontation. A far more fundamental question has come into view: can a Palestinian government that draws its authority from an agreement with Israel stay in power when it is led by an organization committed to the destruction of Israel?
The abduction of an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip, as well as the abduction and subsequent murder of an 18-year old Israeli civilian in the West Bank, have brought to the fore that question, which has haunted Israeli-Palestinian relations since Hamas won parliamentary elections in January.
The international community, led by the “Quartet” (the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia), has put three conditions to the Hamas government if it wishes to achieve international legitimacy and continue to be supported financially. Hamas must recognize Israel’s right to exist, stop all terrorist activities, and commit itself to carry out all previous international agreements signed by the Palestinian Authority. These look like reasonable conditions to any outside observer. To Hamas, however, they appear to undermine its very raison d'etre.
After all, this is an organization committed to the destruction of Israel – its charter calls for a holy war against all Jews – and the establishment of an Islamic state in all of historical Palestine. Indeed, Article 22 of that charter reveals that Hamas views the Jews (together with the Freemasons and other nefarious organizations like Rotary International and the Lions Club), as responsible for the French and Bolshevik Revolutions, World War I, and World War II. So it is no great surprise that Hamas rejected the Quartet’s conditions.