Longtime Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was forced to resign recently because documents leaked to Al Jazeera (called the "Palestine Papers") showed that the PA was willing to compromise on the issue of refugees and their descendants returning to Israel - yet publicly, he had maintained to Palestinians that this point was nonnegotiable.
In Washington, the adage is that "everyone knows what a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would look like." It seems that "everyone," however, does not include the Palestinians.
The reason the so-called Palestine Papers caused such a stir in Palestinian society was that PA leaders had never really been honest with their people about what to expect. That's why Abbas would rather defy the United States at the U.N. than sit down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Showing that it wants nothing to do with peace talks, the PA last week declared its desire to form a "unity government" with Hamas. Most troubling is that this is not being pushed by radical elements, but rather by the man widely hailed as the most moderate Palestinian figure of any significance, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
After initially rejecting the olive branch, it appears Hamas is willing to explore power-sharing with Abbas' Fatah Party. If that happens - a big "if," given recent history - U.S. taxpayer dollars inevitably would flow to Hamas and its supporters.
Then again, given the public dancing that has played out between Fayyad and Hamas, it's quite possible that American tax dollars already have lined Hamas' pockets. But because there is no real transparency or accountability for the hundreds of millions of dollars the U.S. dumps into Palestinian coffers, the Obama administration has no good way to stop it from happening, even if it wanted to.
It appears that U.S. leverage with the PA is in short supply. Even before the U.N. vote, Abbas bragged to the newspaper Al Hayat-Al Jadida in January that the United States couldn't "dictate" to the PA. According to a translation provided by the invaluable Palestinian Media Watch, Abbas said, "The U.S. is assisting us in the amount of $460 million annually. This does not mean that they dictate to us whatever they want."
But what does the United States want? Governments across the Arab world seem to have no clue, especially after Obama's back-and-forth over Egypt and the fate of Hosni Mubarak.
The PA apparently has decided that it doesn't matter. For Americans facing the prospect of funding Hamas, that matters a great deal.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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