A Tale Of Two Capitals
02/12/2012 - 18:11
Douglas Bloomfield

Appearances in opposing capitals by leading Israeli and Palestinian figures provided more evidence why peace between the two neighbors remains so elusive.

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas, held hands aloft with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a massive Tehran gathering and declared, "We will never recognize the Zionist regime." 

And Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister, was in Washington repeating Israeli policy against negotiating peace with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, which is on the State Department terrorist list.

Iran pledged its full backing for the Palestinian resistance, and First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi vowed Iran would use "everything at its disposal" to aid the Palestinians.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed America's "unshakable commitment" to Israel's security and reaffirmed U.S. support for the two-state solution.

Both visits had a similarity.  Other Hamas officials had reportedly urged Haniyeh not to go to Tehran or at least keep it low key because of Iran's support for the Assad regime in Syria, which most of the Sunni Arab world opposes. 

Lieberman's visit was a rare official trip to Washington, and he didn't get the photo op and press conference that usually happens when foreign ministers, especially from a very close ally, come calling at Foggy Bottom.  

In New York Lieberman told ambassadors of UN Security Council, “We will not accept a Palestinian government in which Hamas is a partner without Hamas changing its position and as long as it does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and accepts the Quartet’s conditions.”

Haniyeh told several hundred thousand in Tehran's Azadi Square celebrating the 33d anniversary of the Islamic revolution, "The resistance will continue until all Palestinian land, including al-Quds (Jerusalem), has been liberated and all the refugees have returned….Resistance and jihad is the only strategic option for the Islamic ummah (world)."

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, was off to Cairo to consult with Arab League leaders about whether to continue the Jordanian-sponsored exploratory talks about resuming direct negotiations with Israel.  In other words, he wants to talk to them about whether to continue talking in Amman about talking to the Israelis.  

But that may be moot since Abbas signed an agreement in Doha earlier this month to form a coalition government with Hamas that he would lead a unity cabinet prior to Palestinian elections later this year. 

Lieberman called that a setback to the peace process, but Clinton's spokeswoman said the United States is waiting to see whether the power-sharing agreement is actually implemented.  So far all prior arrangements have failed to materialize, and this one has already been denounced by several other Hamas leaders.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was upset with the administration's failure to object to the reconciliation agreement, saying its response reinforces the PA's "reorientation towards Hamas, and away from negotiations and reconciliation" with Israel.  In a letter to Secretary Clinton, ADL urged her to let Abbas know " there will be consequences to proceeding with a unity government with a pro-violence, anti-Israel Hamas."

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