Calls a Spade a Spade
By Prof. Eyal Zisser
February 1, 2018
If there is anyone who still needed proof of the shift in
White House policies, the U.S. State Department announced Wednesday that it was
designating Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh a terrorist. The move proved that there
really is a new sheriff in town, one who means what he says, who will not be
disrespected, and who shoots first and talks second.
The American move against Haniyeh is largely symbolic, as
it is safe to assume that he has no assets in the U.S. for the administration to
One may wonder why someone like Haniyeh was not placed on the global terror watch list sooner, but the message from Washington is loud and clear: Haniyeh and Hamas are part of the problem, not the solution. The Trump administration has no intention of "embracing" Hamas and fostering dialogue in hopes that someday the Islamist terrorist group would change its tune and become moderate.
The Trump administration sees Hamas for what it is – a
terrorist organization that targets civilians and seeks to undermine
Washington's attempts to advance the Middle East peace process.
There seems to be a direct link between the decision to cut
American aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which only
perpetuates the Palestinian refugees' issue and the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, and Haniyeh's designation.
The U.S. is sending a two-pronged message: first, that
those who have come to see it as little more than an ATM, will from now on be
expected to consider its positions; and second, that the war on terror has no
shades of gray. You either are or are not a terrorist and there is no such thing
as a terrorist organization with a legitimate political arm.
The move also sends a message to Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas, who would prefer to appease Hamas with reconciliation
efforts rather than fight it, and who thinks he can trifle with the Trump
administration as he did with its predecessors.
It is safe to assume that, much like following the Dec. 6
recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, European leaders will rush to
criticize and condemn the U.S. over Haniyeh's designation.
This should not bother Trump too much because the Americans
are the only player in town and nothing will happen without them in terms of the
regional peace process. Trump's challenge is to translate a series of mainly
symbolic statements and moves into comprehensive policy and practical steps on
the ground. This will be the test the American president will face in his second
year at the White House.