If anyone doubted whether there was real substance to the Hamas-Fatah “unity government,” Mahmoud Abbas’s New York Times op-ed provides the proverbial teachable moment.

Don’t be distracted by Abbas’s fable of expulsion from Safed or his lies about the history of the conflict. The key passage is this one:

Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.

Obviously, the precondition Abbas has flogged on an almost daily basis over the past two years to justify his refusal to negotiate — “we must have a settlement freeze” — is instantly rendered ancient history, and itself another lie. Now he has a bold new precondition: Palestinian statehood itself.

After statehood, he dismisses even the pretense of working toward peace. Instead, he openly promises that Palestine would assault Israel relentlessly in international legal, political, and diplomatic fora. This is where Fatah and Hamas now join together in substance as well as appearance.

Until today, Fatah had convinced the world that it had submitted to the linkage of peace with statehood: a Palestinian state would only arise through negotiations with Israel that, at their completion, would require the Palestinians to cease their claims against the Jewish State and declare the conflict over. Hamas, on the other hand, has been perfectly happy to give its blessing (as Khaled Mashaal did last week) to the creation of a Palestinian state — just so long as the continuation of terrorism and the quest for the ultimate destruction of Israel, diplomatically and otherwise, is preserved.

Today, Abbas has brought Fatah and Hamas together in this goal. It is an important moment. Both factions now agree on a strategy of statehood without peace. Despite the ugliness of it all, we should applaud Abbas for writing such a clear and forthright statement, in English, to a western audience, that explains with perfect sobriety what his intentions are. Mahmoud Abbas wants a state not so he can pursue peace; he wants a state so he can pursue war against Israel.

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