Recognizing a Palestinian state under current circumstances would amount to approval of the unity agreement between Hamas and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement earlier this year – “a thoughtless move at a time when jihadist groups such as Islamic State (ISIS) are in full expansion,” Aznar said in an op-ed co-signed by board members of his Friends of Israel Initiative, including former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo.
“As Hamas and ISIS are parts of the same Islamist front, the western democracies should not legitimize an entity that is going to be formed by one of them.”
Aznar and his colleagues described Israel as “a bulwark against the expansion of jihadism and other threats in the Middle East.”
“Promoting initiatives to recognize an imagined Palestinian state now ignores the need for compromises from the [Palestinian] Authority and represents a huge mistake, considering how much western countries need the support of Israel against jihadism and nuclear proliferation, among other worrying threats to global security.”
Under the 20 year-old Oslo Accords the Palestinians gained limited self-rule under the P.A., and the two sides committed themselves to negotiating a final settlement to the conflict. In recent years Abbas has sought to bypass that process by pursuing U.N. recognition. The current attempt involves a new U.N. Security Council resolution that aims to set a Nov. 2016 deadline for Palestinian statehood.
Part of the territory the P.A. wants for that state, the Gaza Strip, is under control of Hamas, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO) and a longstanding rival of Abbas’ Fatah. Last May Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement, leading to a “unity” government.
Aznar and fellow signatories noted recent moves in Europe to push Palestinian statehood ahead outside of the negotiation process, including a Swedish government announcement of its intention to recognize “Palestine,” and the passage of a motion to that effect in Britain’s House of Commons.
“We should expect more similar moves like these across Europe,” they wrote. “No matter how well intentioned these initiatives may be, recognizing Palestine as a state now is inappropriate, counterproductive and unwarranted.
“It will not promote peace, it will not boost a negotiated solution, it will not change the reality on the ground and it will reward Palestinian Authority’s unilateral moves.”
The notion that Hamas and ISIS are both parts of a broader Islamist threat featured in Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to the U.N. last month, when he described the two terrorist groups as “branches of the same poisonous tree.”
“ISIS and Hamas share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control,” he said. “When it comes to their ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas.”
Asked at the time about Netanyahu’s linking of ISIS and Hamas, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said while both were listed by the U.S. as FTOs, ISIS “poses a different threat to Western interests and to the United States. And that’s just a fact.”
“They are both designated terrorist organizations under the United States designations, but certainly we see differences in terms of the threat and otherwise,” she said.
Psaki also differed with a broader assertion in Netanyahu’s speech, that the forces of militant Islam, whether Sunni or Shi’ite, have in common an ultimate goal “to dominate the world.”
“We would not agree with that characterization, no,” she said.
The Friends of Israel Initiative says on its website it was launched in 2010 “out of a sense of deep concern about the unprecedented campaign of delegitimation against Israel waged by the enemies of the Jewish State and, perversely, supported by numerous international institutions.”
Apart from Aznar, Bolton, Richardson and Toledo, the op-ed published by The Times of London was also signed by former Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi; former U.S. Rep. Lt. Col. Allen West (R-Fla.); former commander of British forces in Afghanistan Richard Kemp; U.S. Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow George Weigel; British historian Andrew Roberts; Rhône Group (a private equity firm) founder Roberto Agostinelli; exiled Cuban writer Carlos Alberto Montaner; former Spanish industry minister Carlos Bustelo, former Italian lawmaker Fiamma Nirenstein, and Friends of Israel Initiative executive director Rafael Bardaji.