Imagine this nightmare. Instead of sending a team of SEALs to ice Usama bin Laden, President Obama sent a team of negotiators to see if we could talk the terror lord into promises of peace. All he had to do was say the right words, and we'd say 9/11 and all the threats about destroying the Great Satan were forgiven, and gee, let's be friends.
It's a sickening scenario, yet it's not far from what the world, including the United States, is asking Israel to do with Hamas. The Israelis are expected to break bread with the people who still threaten to wipe them off the face of the earth and regularly fire rockets into towns and cities.
The Palestinian terror group, which gets its funding and weapons from Iran and its joy in murder from Al Qaeda, has signed a "unity" compact with Fatah, the main Palestinian faction. The groups have waged a low-grade civil war for years, with Hamas controlling Gaza while Fatah controls the West Bank. They now say they're joining forces and will hold winner-take-all elections in a year.
It's far from clear the truce will hold, and the jockeying for power has begun. Yet pressure is already building on Israel to make a deal that will lead to a unified Palestinian state, despite the fact that Hamas has not met the American and European demand that it renounce violence and accept Israel's right to exist.
Indeed, one top Hamas leader told Al Jazeera this week that Hamas would never recognize Israel and "the rule of Poles and Ethiopians in their land." Another denounced the killing of Bin Laden and called him "an Arab holy warrior" and martyr.
Those sentiments are hardly a surprise, but what is surprising is that the Obama administration doesn't see them as red flags. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton swatted away concerns, saying, "We are going to be carefully assessing what this actually means, because there are a number of different potential meanings to it, both on paper and in practice." She said the United States has not changed its demands on Hamas, but would make a decision when "we actually see what unfolds."
That's the wrong answer. As Elliott Abrams writes on his blog at the Council on Foreign Relations, "The United States needs to be far clearer: we cannot and will not support any government where Hamas has a real influence and the security forces stop fighting terror."
A deputy national security adviser for Mideast affairs under President George W. Bush, Abrams adds that "we must certainly not fund such a government."
That's got to be the American bottom line, but by taking such a wait-and-see attitude, the White House is doing something far worse than merely kicking the can down the road. It is effectively giving a green light to letting Hamas join, and maybe run, the Palestinian government without giving up its charter, which calls for the elimination of Israel. Coming as Israelis celebrate their 63rd anniversary of independence, it's a mighty strange gift.
Alarmed by the White House approach, 27 Democratic senators wrote to Obama, reminding him that the U.S. cannot legally provide aid to any government that includes Hamas, which is a listed terror group. It also cited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's warning that Fatah can have "peace with Israel or peace with Hamas" but "there is no possibility for peace with both."