Addressing the newly elected Palestinian Legislative Council, he failed to demand that the new Hamas-led government renounce terrorism and accept the principle of a negotiated settlement.

On Saturday (18 February 2006) the newly elected Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) convened and its members were sworn in. At the session, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas delivered a policy address, outlining his expectations from the government which he asked the Hamas, which constitutes the majority of the PLC, to form.

This crucial speech could have been utilized by Abbas as an opportunity to clarify to the Hamas the obligations which the Palestinian Authority has taken upon itself in the framework of the peace process. Mahmoud Abbas is a veteran negotiator of the Middle East peace process, and as PA Chairman, he has the power to approve or reject any suggested government. A clear statement on his part would have given distinct boundaries to the Hamas and its supporters. He could have stressed the need for the new government to accept the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians, and to carry out the commitments given by the PA to the international community as part of the ‘Roadmap to Middle East Peace’. He could have required it to disarm terrorist groups dismantle their infrastructure, and reject violence as a political tool. And he could have reaffirmed that he, as PA Chairman, would not be party to a policy which pursued the establishment of Palestinian state in place of Israel, rather than alongside Israel.

Unfortunately, Abbas’ speech contained much rhetoric but very little clarity. There was no unequivocal requirement that the new Hamas-led government renounce terrorism and accept the principle of a negotiated settlement. Neither was there a clear prerequisite that the new cabinet accept signed agreements and obligations, and act to fulfill them. In fact, Abbas didn’t even condition his acceptance of the new government on a change in the Hamas’ charter calling for Israel’s destruction.

The Chairman of the Palestinian Authority is the only person with the constitutional capacity to provide a counter-balance to the PLC and the Cabinet. Yet, if Abbas’ acquiescent behavior at the PLC inaugural session is any indication of the future, it should be no surprise that the Hamas government will very soon convert the entire Palestinian Authority into an apparatus meant to promote that organization’s own extremist Jihadist policies against Israel and the Western world.