Netanyahu Declines to Meet Democratic Senators Before Congressional Speech

Biden (left) and Boehner (right) look on as Netanyahu speaks before Congress.

Biden (left) and Boehner (right) look on as Netanyahu speaks before Congress.

DEBKA reported that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declined an invitation for a closed-door meeting with Democratic Senators next week in a letter to Senators Richard Durbin and Dianne Feinstein:

Though I greatly appreciate your kind invitation, I believe that accepting it at this time could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit.

DEBKA added that National Security Adviser Susan Rice, the latest U.S. administration official to attack Netanyahu, sharply called his forthcoming speech on Iran to Congress “destructive to the relationship between the two countries” in an interview with Charlie Rose Tuesday night:

What has happened over the last several weeks by virtue of the invitation that was issued by the speaker and the acceptance of it by Prime Minister Netanyahu two weeks before his elections is that on both sides there have been injected some degree of partisanship.

It is not only unfortunate but it is also destructive of the fabric of the relationship. It has always been bipartisan and we want to keep it that way. When it becomes injected with politics, that’s a problem.

Earlier, Secretary of State John Kerry said in reference to the prime minister that “anybody running around right now jumping in to say, ‘Well we don’t like the deal,’ or this, or that, doesn’t know what the deal is.”

Previously, Netanyahu remarked on his upcoming speech:

This agreement, if signed, will allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state – meaning that, with the powers’ consent, Iran will get a license to develop atom bombs – and this is a country which openly declares its intention to destroy the state of Israel. That is why I will go to Washington to speak before the US Congress, because the U.S. Congress may be the last defense before it is signed.

Netanyahu Demands U.S. Congress Pass Carbon Tax (Parody)

Parody courtesy of Disassociated Press

(Disassociated Press — Washington DC, March 3, 2015) Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel today startled the U.S. Congress by demanding that it pass a strong carbon tax to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions that lead to global scorching.

Biden (left) and Boehner (right) look on as Netanyahu speaks before Congress.

Biden (left) and Boehner (right) look on as Netanyahu speaks before Congress.

The State of Israel faces an extreme threat to its existence much more dangerous to us than Iran or the Palestinians. And only the United States can prevent this disaster.

Our best scientists have told me that if the world continues with business as usual in pouring CO2 into our air, the added heat will expand the size of the Negev Desert so that it will swallow up most of Israel. And sea levels of the Mediterranean will rise to put much of Tel Aviv under water.

I am sad to say that much of the present CO2 comes from unchecked fossil-fuel burning by American companies. Only a strong US carbon tax can end this. On behalf of the people of Israel and of the entire Jewish people, I implore you — I urge you — even I would say I demand of you — that you take this step as soon as possible.

Senators and Members of the House of Representatives were thrown into a buzzing uproar by Mr. Netanyahu’s speech. Speaker Boehner was seen to hit his hand against his head three times in what looked like frustration.

Until Mr. Netanyahu began to speak, it was widely expected he would call for Congress to impose even more draconian sanctions against Iran than now exist.

There were sharp divisions in American politics over having the speech at all.

On the one hand, the House Republican leadership had arranged it without informing the President or the Democratic Congressional leadership — an unheard-of procedure for inviting a foreign leader. The Republican leadership also invited several major supporters and donors to sit in seats of honor in the gallery.

Sheldon Adelson

Sheldon Adelson

One of these was Sheldon Adelson, multibillionaire head of a casino empire who has been one of Mr. Netanyahu’s strongest political supporters and donors in Israeli politics, and who has also been a major contributor to Republican candidates for President.

From his seat, as the speech took its unexpected turn, he began shouting, “No, No, No.” When forced to leave by the Capitol police, he came down outside the Capitol, roaring, “For this I paid the whole cost of the newspaper I invented to support him? What will I say to my friends Charles and David Koch? Did some Greenpeacer poison his coffee this morning?”

On the other hand, the White House had sharply criticized the invitation, and many critics had gathered outside the Capitol to protest what they had expected Mr. Netanyahu to say. They had argued that his policy would undermine President Obama’s diplomatic work to pull Iran away from nuclear weapons, would instead push Iran toward making them, and thus would likely lead to a disastrous war.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow (front right) and other protesters.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow (front right) and other protesters.

One of the protesters, Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center, is also a leader in urging the American Jewish community to work against the fossil-fuel burning that brings on climate chaos. Our reporter asked Rabbi Waskow what he thought of the speech.

I am astounded. A reminder that even bellicose, short-sighted politicians can still open themselves to the deepest truth, and amaze everyone — maybe even themselves.In Jewish spiritual life we call it tshuvah — literally, turning in a new direction, toward the God Who breathes all life. We pray, “You Who are the Breath of Life, May Your sacred winds of change turn us in a new direction – and then we will turn!”

All I can say this afternoon is, Amen to that!

7 Q&A: Iran’s Nuclear Program & Netanyahu’s Speech

450px-Arak_Heavy_Water4

Heavy water reactor in Arak, Iran.

1. How Can We Best Prevent Iran From Acquiring Nuclear Weapons?

A nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to Israel and destabilize the region.

President Obama and members of his administration have repeatedly stated that Iran will be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons and that all options, including the military option, are on the table.

During the Obama administration, Congress passed, and Obama signed into law, increasingly tough sanctions against Iran. The President signed every sanctions bill that Congress sent him. These sanctions hurt Iran economically, because Obama built an international coalition that adhered to the sanctions. But Iran had only accelerated its progress toward nuclear weapons.

On November 24, 2013, the U.S. and its allies entered into an interim agreement with Iran called the Joint Plan of Action (JPA). Under the JPA, Iran agreed to freeze or roll back its nuclear program in return for a limited, reversible sanctions relief. The JPA stopped the clock so that Iran could not advance its program while talks were continuing.

The JPA has been extended twice and will expire on June 30, 2015, but the U.S. hopes that a framework for a final agreement will be in place by the end of March, with the remaining time used to work out the details.

The administration and its allies believe that diplomacy is our best chance to stop Iran. We tried sanctions. They brought Iran to the table, but they did not stop Iran’s progress — only the JPA did that.

Even the most crippling sanctions, assuming that our allies would agree to tougher sanctions, probably would not be sufficient to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons because Iran is already so close. Military action might set their program back, but unless we are willing to invade and occupy Iran, military action would ultimately succeed only in convincing Iran that it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself.

Some lawmakers now want to pass more sanctions legislation or require that any final agreement be approved by Congress. The administration opposes such legislation, and so should we.

2. Is the Joint Plan of Action (interim agreement) Working?

As Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken testified, the interim agreement is working:

Today, as the result of the constraints in the JPA, Iran has halted progress on its nuclear program and it has rolled it back in key areas for the first time in a decade, and it has allowed us to have greater insight and visibility through more intrusive and more frequent inspections.

The Arms Control Association details Iran’s compliance with the terms of the agreement in a chart, and Politifact verified the President’s statement about Iranian compliance.

Meanwhile, as Blinken said, despite the limited sanctions relief, “virtually the entire sanctions architecture remains in place. Indeed, throughout the existence of the JPA, sanctions pressure on Iran has not decreased — it has increased.”

3. How Can a Bill That Imposes Sanctions Only if a Deal is Not Reached Disrupt Negotiations?

The latest version of the Kirk-Menendez bill (sponsored so far by 30 Republicans and eight Democrats, and none of the Democrats want a vote until at least the end of March) would impose sanctions only if we did not reach a final agreement with Iran.

The administration opposes triggered sanctions for several reasons:

  • Such sanctions would be viewed by the international community as violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the JPA, freeing Iran to violate its commitments under the JPA and resume its nuclear program.
  • Such sanctions could provoke Iran to end negotiations.
  • If Iran did not walk away, Iran would likely adopt more extreme positions in response.
  • If our allies perceive that we are not serious about living into up to our commitments, their support for sanctions will wane.

The Brookings Institution’s Robert Einhorn said that new U.S. sanctions legislation would have a troublesome impact “on the internal debate in Tehran and on prospects for positive changes in Iran’s negotiating position”:

Opponents of a deal would seize on the new legislation to argue that the United States is violating the spirit of the JPA, that the U.S. has no intention of ultimately removing the sanctions, and that the U.S. Administration cannot be counted on to deliver its end of any agreement eventually reached.

The critics — whose strong influence has so far impeded the adoption of a pragmatic Iranian negotiating position — would be further strengthened. Playing on Iranian hyper-sensitivity to giving in to foreign pressures, they would demand that U.S. pressure tactics not be rewarded by making concessions in the talks.

Thus, instead of compelling Iran to be more flexible, new U.S. legislation could produce greater defiance, further entrench rigid Iranian negotiating positions, and increase support for the Supreme Leader’s pipedream of an “economy of resistance” that could manage effectively without a nuclear deal. So even if a new sanctions law did not precipitate an abrupt termination of the talks, it could increase the likelihood that the negotiations will ultimately fail.

However, Blinken is the one who spoke about the key point:

We can debate whether any or all of these things would happen. What I can tell you today is that those who are best placed to know — the diplomatic professionals who have been leading these negotiations and dealing directly with the Iranians and our international partners for the past several years — believe that the risks are real, serious and totally unnecessary. That is their best judgment.

Why run those risks and jeopardize the prospects for a deal that will either come together — or not — over the next two months? Why not be patient for a few more months to fully test diplomacy? There is nothing to be gained — and everything to be lost — by acting precipitously.

Iran fully expects that if talks break down, we will enact tougher sanctions. As Einhorn said, “There is no need to legislate those sanctions in advance to ensure their credibility.”

In the meantime, Iran is the country whose nuclear program has been frozen and they are the ones whose economy continues to suffer because of sanctions. As Einhorn said, “Iran, not the United States or its partners… is the clear loser the longer the JPA remains in effect.”

4. What If We Get a Bad Deal?

President Obama and his staff have been as clear as can be on two points: We will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and no deal is better than a bad deal.

The administration’s refusal to sign a bad deal is the reason that the interim agreement was extended twice. We will hear all sorts of unconfirmed rumors about deals that are being contemplated, but do not waste your time: The only deal that matters, if a deal is to be, is the one that will be officially announced. Until then, we can do nothing (except scuttle negotiations and eliminate any hope of a deal, which seems to be the Republican plan).

We should oppose any efforts by Congress to approve a deal. This is not a treaty: This Congress would not have approved the JPA, and this Congress would only approve a perfect deal. But a good deal will not be a perfect deal.

As much as we would like to permanently and forever rid Iran of all nuclear capacity, that is not going to happen. An agreement that, in Einhorn’s words, “would allow a strictly limited and heavily monitored enrichment program” and would lengthen to at least one year, “the time it would take Iran to produce enough nuclear material for a single nuclear weapon,” would be sufficient. The agreement itself would have to last at least ten years.

5. Should Netanyahu Address Congress?

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on Iran will take place two weeks before Israel’s election. Netanyahu wants the Israeli public to see members of Congress give him standing ovations. It is also a blatantly partisan effort by Republicans in Congress to enlist Netanyahyu’s aid in lobbying Congress in favor of Republican legislation on Iran.

Netanyahu’s defenders sanctimoniously say that he needs to warn Congress about the threat posed by Iran. I am aware of no members of Congress who do not support preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons or who do not know where Bibi stands.

This is not about the U.S. vs. Israel. This is not even Obama vs. Netanyahu. This is about a terrible political miscalculation by Netanyahu and his Republican ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, aided and abetted by the Republican speaker of the house, John Boehner.

Vice President Biden, a pro-Israel stalwart for more than 30 years, will skip the speech. He could not possibly attend following this major and deliberate breach of protocol.

Some Democratic members of Congress also might not attend because the disrespect shown to the President by Boehner and Netanyahu. Let us be clear: Democrats are firmly pro-Israel and firmly in favor of policies that prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. What they are not in favor of is being used as props for a foreign leader’s re-election campaign and to humiliate Obama.

Even Israel’s consul general in Philadelphia, Yaron Sideman, said that the purpose of Netanyahu’s speech is to defy and humiliate Obama:

It is our impression that these people’s support for the speech stems from their identification with, and admiration for, a move to defy and humiliate President Obama, more than from the importance they attribute to the Iranian issue, which should be the center of the speech.

The former Mossad head, Meir Dagan, and a close advisor to Israel’s former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Dov Wiesglass, were also very critical of Netanyahu’s speech, calling it an “excessive provocation” and warning of the “terrible damage” it will do.

In The Jerusalem Post, Douglas Bloomfield wrote similar things:

There is no known precedent for a foreign leader working with the Congressional opposition behind a president’s back to come to Washington to lobby against an administration’s policies… Netanyahu’s supporters are accusing the administration of snubbing the prime minister, but it is actually the other way around. The Congressional appearance was arranged in secret and was intended to be a platform for pressing for new sanctions legislation that Obama has threatened to veto.

Former Congressman Mel Levine was one of Israel strongest advocates when he was in Congress. He wrote an op-ed in Ha’aretz with Israel’s former ambassador to Jordan and the European Union, Oded Eran, stating that Netanyahu’s impending visit breaks away from “the fundamental principles that form the bedrock of Israeli-U.S. relations”:

This relationship should never be owned in the United States by one party, nor should it ever become a political football between Republicans and Democrats. Furthermore, both the United States and Israel should refrain from interfering in the domestic politics of one another.

Netanyahu – who cannot be accused of not understanding U.S. politics or the history of the U.S.-Israeli relationship — is guilty of all three sins.

Levine and Eran suggest that Bibi defuse the situation by meeting with bipartisan leadership instead of addressing a joint session of Congress. But that would make way too much sense.

6. Did Speaker Boehner Inform the White House Prior to Inviting Netanyahu?

In an absurd attempt to pull themselves out of the muck, some of our Republican friends are pointing to a New York Times correction stating that Netanyahu accepted Boehner’s invitation after the White House had been informed of the invitation.

It is supposedly nice that our Republican friends have so much faith in the New York Times that they even read the corrections, but let us get real: Even if true, the correction does not state who supplied this information, or more importantly, exactly who was “informed.” The truth is that the White House was blindsided by the invitation and only learned about it from press reports.

The bottom line remains that Boehner did not consult with the White House or his Democratic counterparts before extending the invitation, and if there was notice — all of two hours — before Bibi accepted, there is really no difference between that and no notice at all. It was a done deal, secretly prepared by the Republicans for weeks without the knowledge of the White House or congressional Democrats.

7. How Will This Affect U.S.-Israel Relations?

The good news from a pro-Israel standpoint is that despite whatever his personal relationship with Netanyahu might be, Obama has been rock-solid in his support for Israel from day one.

During his first term, Obama:

  • ordered the successful assassination of Osama bin-Laden,
  • built the international coalition that enforced the toughest sanctions ever against Iran,
  • restored Israel’s qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the Bush administration (and secretly sold Israel the bunker-busting bombs it requested but did not receive during the Bush administration),
  • increased security assistance to Israel to record levels,
  • requested funding for Iron Dome above and beyond those levels,
  • boycotted Durban II and Durban III,
  • took US-Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels, cast his only veto in the UN against a one-sided anti-Israel Security Council resolution,
  • opposed the Goldstone Report,
  • stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla, and
  • organized a successful diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

After winning re-election, Obama:

  • spoke out against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state at the U.N.,
  • reiterated his firm commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,
  • forcefully condemned Hamas while supporting Israel’s right to defend itself,
  • became only the fifth sitting U.S. president to visit Israel, and
  • supported even more funding for Iron Dome, which saved thousands of Israeli lives in the last Gaza conflict.

Obama has continued some U.S. policies that have been in place since 1967, such as vocal opposition and condemnation of settlements, not moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and urging “restraint” on both sides during wars, sometimes in almost the exact words used by the Bush administration. That is par for the course, even if our Republican friends continue to profess shock that the President adheres to decades-old U.S. policy on those issues, both in tone and substance.

Obama’s record on Israel is better than that of any Republican president. If this is how Obama treats Israel when he does not like Israel’s prime minister, imagine how he will treat Israel if Israel elects someone else.

Netanyahu Mocks Political Rivals in ‘Bibi-Sitter’ Video

Courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles @ cartoonkronicles.com.

Courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles @ cartoonkronicles.com.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, mocks his rivals in the coming Israeli election in a video ad that shows him as a responsible babysitter, or “Bibi-sitter,” unlike his rivals.

The 2oth Knesset elections are scheduled for March 17. The main rival of Netanyahu’s party, Likud (“unity”), is the Zionist Camp alliance of Isaac “Buji” Hertzog’s Labor Party, and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah (“the movement”).

In the video, Netanyahu mocks Hertzog as an irresponsible negotiator: Hertzog granted Livni a rotation agreement, meaning each of them will serve as prime minister for two years if the Zionist Camp wins the election, even though Hatnuah was a risk of not getting the four seats required to enter the Knesset before creating the alliance with the Labor Party.

The parents who ordered a babysitter comment that if Hertzog was babysitting their kids, he would have given away their house by the time they returned.

Netanyahu also mocks the fact that the Zionist Camp is Livni’s fourth party in nine years, after Likud, Kadima (“forward”) and Hatnuah. In the video, the parents doubt Livni’s ability to stay in the same place for two hours. Netanyahu says that by the time they return, “she’ll have moved to the neighbors.”

The video concludes with the parents returning home and saying “Shalom” (“peace”). Netanyahu responds, “Not unconditionally!”

‘The Biggest Rally Paris Has Ever Seen’

(DEBKA) French officials say the Unity March against Islamist terror was the biggest rally Paris has ever seen with an estimated 2-3 million people taking part.

President Francois Hollande, who led the march with world figures, joined Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on a visit to the Grand Synagogue to express condolences for the deaths of four Jews at the hands of a terrorist in a kosher store and solidarity with the French Jewish community.

000_ARP4068760-e1420990974103

The victims — Yohan Cohen (22), Philippe Braham (40), François-Michel Saada (in his 60s) and Yoav Hattab (21) — were shot in the early stages of the seven-hour standoff, which ended when police stormed the shop and killed the hostage taker, Amedy Coulibaly. The families of the four victims requested to have them buried in Israel and Netanyahu promised to arrange this.

Obama: ‘Terror Is No Match for Freedom’

A pen rests next to a message written by President Barack Obama in a condolences book during a visit to the French Embassy in Washington on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A pen rests next to a message written by President Barack Obama in a condolences book during a visit to the French Embassy in Washington on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

In the wake of the horrific shooting at Charlie Hebdo magazine’s offices in Paris, upon returning to the Washington, D.C. last evening on Marine One, President Obama walked not to the White House but rather to his motorcade to go to the French Embassy.

The French ambassador, Gerard Araudq, escorted the President into the embassy to sign the condolence book:

On behalf of all Americans, I extend our deepest sympathy and solidarity to the people of France following the terrible terrorist attack in Paris. As allies across the centuries, we stand united with our French brothers to ensure that justice is done and our way of life is defended. We go forward together knowing that terror is no match for freedom and ideals we stand for — ideals that light the world.

Vive la France!

[Read more…]

No, the U.S. Won’t Impose Sanctions on Israel

The U.S. is not going to impose sanctions on Israel.

You would not believe the nonsense I get in my inbox. The question I ask myself is whether I should write about it, thus giving it a modicum of credence and potentially spreading the rumor further, or whether to ignore it, letting the misinformation stand uncorrected. But since we are going to see a lot of nonsense between now and Israel’s upcoming elections, let us see what we can learn. [Read more…]

Why Presbyterian Divestment Feels Like Anti-Semitism


From the Pews: The Presbyterian divestment votes doesn’t look like harmless nonviolent protest from Israel.

This article originally appeared in the Forward, June 25, 2014. Reproduced from there by permission of the Forward.

— by Jane Eisner

In a hotel ballroom in Jerusalem jammed with journalists from all over the Jewish world, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a rambling speech that covered everything from Iran’s nuclear ambitions to an Israeli cow that he claims produces more milk than any other cow in the world. Really.

But I want to focus on his riff about the Presbyterians.

[Read more…]

A Nation Grieves: Israeli Teens Kidnapped by Hamas Found Dead

— by Alex Lipton, Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region

Following extensive searches led by the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Security Agency and the Israel Police, the bodies of Eyal Yifrach (19), Gilad Sha’er (16) and Naftali Frenkel (16), who were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on June 12, 2014, were discovered today in the area northwest of Hebron.

A community memorial service will be held today, July 1st at 6:30 p.m. at Congregation Mikveh Israel, 44 North 4th Street, Philadelphia.

All of us, who for the past 18 days have been hoping and praying for the boys’ safe return home, grieve today along with their families.

More after the jump.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, referred to the developments at a security cabinet meeting yesterday:

In the name of the whole of Israel, I ask to tell the dear families — to the mothers, the fathers, the grandmothers and the grandfathers, the brothers and sisters — our hearts are bleeding, the whole nation is crying with them.

Israel’s outgoing president, Shimon Peres, said that “Israel bows its head”:

For 18 days we hoped and prayed with one voice that we would find the boys safe and well. With this bitter news all of Israel mourns their deaths. Along with our deep sense of loss we remain committed to bringing the terrorists to justice. Our resolve in the fight against terror will only strengthen and we will ensure that murderous terrorism of this sort will not dare to rear its head again.

What Does Hamas-PLO Unity Mean?‏


PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas, left, and leader of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Mashal.

— by Steve Sheffey

Israel suspended peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA) last week following reports that the PLO intended to form a unity government with Hamas, a terrorist organization that refuses to recognize Israel.

The Obama administration, AIPAC and many lawmakers highlighted the dangers of the PLO’s path. And yet, others noted that a unity government could present new opportunities for reaching a two-state solution.

But it has not happened yet, and we do not know if it will. Similar attempts have failed before. Also, we do not know what the terms will be if it does happen, and whether Hamas will change any of its positions.

More after the jump.
According to a PLO fact sheet released on Friday, under the reconciliation agreement with Hamas, the “PLO will continue negotiating a peace agreement with Israel, supporting non-violence to end the occupation and upholding previous agreements signed with Israel. The interim government will adhere to those commitments and the PLO’s political agenda.”

If that is true, then this arrangement could bring us closer to peace. Indeed, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said on Saturday that the unity government will recognize Israel, reject violence, and recognize the legitimacy of international agreements.

Can we rely on Abbas’s word? I would not. But I would wait for his assurances to be proven false before taking action.

Some lawmakers have already threatened to cut off funding for the PA because Hamas a is terrorist group, and it is illegal for the U.S. to provide funds to terrorist-designated groups. But the State Department argues that until we get more information, we will not know whether the law requires the U.S. to cut off funds.

If you are not familiar with Hamas, read its charter (covenant), especially Article 7, which calls on Muslims to kill Jews, and Article 13, which says that “so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement.”

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote in his website, “Instead of choosing peace, Abu Mazen formed an alliance with a murderous terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel.”

Abu Mazen has formed an alliance with an organization whose covenant calls for Muslims to fight and kill Jews. Hamas has fired more than 10,000 missiles and rockets at Israeli territory and has not halted terrorist actions against Israel even for a minute.

The agreement between Abu Mazen and Hamas was signed even as Israel is making efforts to advance the negotiations with the Palestinians. It is the direct continuation of the Palestinians’ refusal to advance the negotiations. Only last month Abu Mazen rejected the framework principles proposed by the United States. Abu Mazen has refused to even discuss recognizing Israel as the national state of the Jewish People. He violated existing agreements by unilaterally applying to accede to international treaties and then formed an alliance with Hamas.

Whoever chooses the terrorism of Hamas does not want peace.

The Obama administration backed Israel. Last week the State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, said that “it’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist” and that “Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties.”

The George W. Bush administration pressured Israel into allowing Hamas to participate in the 2006 Gaza elections, thus conferring on Hamas a legitimacy it could not have otherwise achieved, and rescinded $289.5 million in loan guarantees for Israel as punishment for what Bush considered illegal settlement activity. But the Obama administration has never pressured Israel to act contrary to what Israel perceives as its best interests.

AIPAC said that, “The announced formation of a Hamas-Fatah unity government represents a direct affront to Secretary of State John Kerry and a severe blow to Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.”

Hamas is an Islamist terrorist organization that seeks Israel’s destruction and attacks innocent civilians. Any Palestinian government that includes Hamas cannot be a negotiating partner unless it meets longstanding Quartet demands ensconced in U.S. law: recognize Israel, reject violence, and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Yet, a Hamas-PLO agreement could lead to peace. In his column in Haaretz, Barak Ravid noted that “it was Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and their colleagues in the cabinet who argued that Abbas doesn’t really represent the Palestinian people and no progress could be made so long as the PA didn’t control Gaza.”

The reconciliation agreement, if implemented, could provide a response to exactly these arguments by creating a government that represents all the Palestinians.

The reconciliation agreement is also an opportunity because Hamas’ serious problems might force the organization to change direction, as happened with Yasser Arafat and the PLO after the 1991 Gulf War. The unity deal calls for Hamas to join the PLO and accept its principles — which includes the recognition of Israel and acceptance of the Oslo Accords and the Road Map. The significance of this agreement is also that for first time, Hamas seems willing to give up some of its grip on the Gaza Strip in favor of a unity government.

Implementation of the agreement will also mean elections for president and the Palestinian parliament, which have not taken place for years. Given the precarious condition of the Hamas in Palestinian public opinion, especially in the Gaza Strip, new elections will almost certainly decrease its political power. New elections will also renew Abbas’ mandate — or bestow greater public legitimacy on whoever might be elected in his stead — making the Palestinian leader a stronger, more stable and more reliable partner for Israel.

And to those who say Israel cannot negotiate with Hamas, Ravid reminded that Netanyahu “reached at least two written agreements with the Gaza terror group; one in the 2011 deal in return for the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, and the second confirming the cease-fire that ended Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012.”

But can and will Hamas change its stripes? In his blog in The Forward, J.J. Goldberg explained that, “It’s highly unlikely that Hamas will agree between now and the end of the year to tear up its founding platform and formally embrace the principle of a Palestine partitioned into two states for two peoples.”

Militant religious movements don’t jettison their catechisms that fast. It is quite possible, however, that Abbas and his Fatah negotiators could obtain Hamas agreement to accept domestic portfolios in a unity government while Fatah holds the foreign affairs and security slots and handles peace negotiations with Israel. Some Hamas leaders have suggested such an arrangement in the past, with the understanding that if the negotiations produce an agreement and it’s approved in a Palestinian referendum, Hamas will accept the public’s will and live with it without endorsing it.

It’s not such a hard arrangement to understand. After all, Netanyahu heads up an Israeli government that hasn’t approved the two-state principle he himself says he embraces. Indeed, two of his coalition’s four parties, including Naftali Bennet’s HaBayit HaYehudi-Jewish Home party and Bibi’s own Likud, are formally, flatly opposed to Palestinian statehood. Put differently, they haven’t recognized the Palestinians or their right to a state. Bibi’s made it clear that he considers himself mandated to conduct negotiations toward a goal that his own party and a majority of his coalition oppose. If he’s as serious about peace as he says he is, he ought to be able to accept a Palestinian negotiating partner that operates under the same rules he does.

Can Bibi seize this opportunity? In Bloomberg, Jeff Goldberg made some good points:

Israel doesn’t get to pick its enemies. It has to make peace with the ones it has. Hamas is one of those enemies. And Netanyahu’s argument doesn’t take into consideration that, theoretically at least, the Palestinian Authority could, over time, help moderate Hamas and bring it more into the two-state fold.

But who am I kidding? Maybe both of Netanyahu’s superficially contradictory beliefs are true. Maybe he can’t make peace with a divided Palestinian entity. And maybe he can’t make peace with a unified Palestinian entity. Maybe he can’t make peace with any Palestinian entity because members of his own political coalition are uninterested in taking the steps necessary for compromise.

I hope Jeff Goldberg’s second paragraph is wrong, but Israel gets to elect its leaders, and Israel, not the U.S., will have to live, or die, with the risks it makes for peace and the chances they choose not to take.

We in the U.S. should not pressure Israel to act against its perceived interests. Rather, we should do all we can to bring the parties together and create an environment conducive to progress, recognizing, as President Obama does, that only the parties to the conflict can solve the conflict.

Click here to sign up to Steve Sheffey’s newsletter.