Ever since Vice President Biden's recent trip to Israel, relations between the United States and its strongest ally in the Middle East have been shaky. Despite recent efforts on the part of the Obama administration to alleviate the tension, they are ignoring a giant Islamist elephant in the room—Hamas.
The President recently explained that Arab-Israeli peace is a "vital national security interest" to the United States. To that end, special Mideast envoy George Mitchell was back at the negotiating tables last week trying to pry concessions from both sides of the conflict. Rather than any concrete victories, all Mitchell got was a demand from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that the United States impose a peace plan on the parties:
"Since you, Mr. President and you, the members of the American administration, believe in this, it is your duty to call for the steps in order to reach the solution and impose the solution—impose it."
All of this wrangling has led to political problems at home. Such discord is perhaps best exemplified by Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer's recent remarks, calling the administration's policies on Israel "counterproductive" and "terrible."
In response, as Politico reports, the White House:
"is engaged in an aggressive effort to reassure Jewish leaders that the tense relationship between the Obama administration and the Israeli government that has played out in public in the past few months does not signify any fundamental change in U.S. policy…what has changed is the public relations strategy for the policy, not U.S. policy."
While the Obama administration reconsiders how to sell its message to the public, it might want to spend some time reconsidering the underlying strategy. Its overwhelming focus on Israel ignores the reality that the Palestinian side of the equation is fractured.
Since their electoral victory, violent rejectionists in Hamas have been involved in a bloody power struggle with Fatah. Hamas refuses to recognize the state of Israel and its leaders continue to call for the kidnapping of Israelis. Just this week, a spokesman for Hamas said that the U.S. lacks credibility as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
In his Cairo speech, the President reiterated longstanding American policy that:
"Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed ... To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist."
If there's a plan to make that happen, it hasn't been unveiled. In its absence, the intransigence of the radical Islamist movement renders any U.S. effort to negotiate peace futile no matter what the Israeli government does.