This past Monday will go down in history as the day when over two decades of American- led Middle East peacemaking efforts reached their final, and inevitable, conclusion.
At a ceremony in Ramallah, the rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas established a new unity coalition, thereby formalizing the role of the extremist Islamic terrorist movement in governing the lives of Palestinians.
This move is significant because it clearly indicates beyond a shadow of a doubt that Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas has abandoned the path of peace by aligning himself with those who openly seek Israel's demise.
This leaves Washington with no choice but to do what should have been done long ago: put an immediate end to all US aid to the Palestinians.
There can be no more excuses or pretexts, no more apologies or explanations, because it is now official: every dollar that Washington sends to the PA is a dollar that will go toward sponsoring terror.
Abbas had a very simple choice to make: peace with Israel or with Hamas. He chose the latter, embracing the fanatics who popularized suicide bombings and fire rockets indiscriminately at Israeli towns and cities. Hamas is a movement that preaches genocide, and strives to practice it too. It would be a catastrophic error for the US to turn a blind eye to its involvement in the new Palestinian terror regime that has arisen.
Currently, despite tough times at home, the American government is sending hundreds of millions of tax-payer dollars each year to keep the PA afloat. According to a September 30, 2013, report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) entitled, "US aid to the Palestinians," since the start of fiscal year 2008, "annual regular-year US bilateral assistance to the West Bank and Gaza Strip has averaged around $500 million."
This has included some $200m. in "direct budgetary assistance" and another $100m. in "non-lethal security assistance" that has gone into Abbas' coffers, with the remainder being disbursed to various projects run by organizations in the territories.
"Much of this assistance," the report notes, "is in direct support of the PA's security, governance, development, and reform programs aimed at building Palestinian institutions in advance of potential statehood."
In other words, the US has been trying to lay the groundwork for the establishment of a Palestinian state by providing them with financial support.
With Hamas now assuming a direct role in Palestinian governance, the continuation of such aid would effectively mean that Washington is directly helping to build a terrorist state, something that is anathema to most Americans. Moreover, US law prohibits providing assistance to a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas.
As the CRS report states, "No aid is permitted for a power-sharing PA government that includes Hamas as a member, or that results from an agreement with Hamas and over which Hamas exercises 'undue influence.'" The only exception to this rule is if the president certifies that the Palestinian government and all of its ministers recognize Israel's right to exist and accept previous agreements that were signed by the parties.
It is of course possible that President Barack Obama will utilize the waiver option to keep American aid flowing. After all, a cut-off of US funds will drive the PA into bankruptcy. But such a step would be morally obscene and politically obtuse. For even if the ministers in the PA unity government are said to be technocrats, their presence there is a direct result of the Hamas-Fatah deal, and the ministers appointed by Hamas will obviously answer directly to it.
It is certain that Abbas and Hamas are each doing what they perceive to be as in their own best interest. It is now time for America to do the same, and to send a clear message to the Palestinians by cutting off any further support.
For at a time when Washington is battling to reduce its enormous national debt, there are surely better ways to spend half a billion dollars each year than by propping up a Palestinian terrorist entity.