The Magazine

An Election, but Who Won?

You'll have to wait awhile to find out who will govern Israel.

Feb 23, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 22 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
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Few Israelis believe there is any chance of comprehensive peace negotiations with the Palestinians now, with Gaza in the hands of Hamas and the "leadership" of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas looking even weaker than in past years. Abbas spent most of the recent Gaza war and the weeks since traveling, avoiding the sad realities that face him in Ramallah. Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad continues his work to sustain the West Bank economy and train a decent and effective police force, and is trying now to gain control of any Gaza reconstruction funds--both to keep them out of the hands of Hamas and to strengthen the PA's support in Gaza. But in all this he is hampered by a simple lack of funding, and he missed a payroll in February. Arab states continue to send the Palestinians gifts of extravagant rhetoric and countless Arab League resolutions--but not much cash.

Meanwhile Iran's influence in this region grows (a fact that, by the way, worries most Arab states as much as it worries Israel). Not only Iran's nuclear and missile programs but its role as chief ideological and financial backer of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups continues to expand. For Israelis, the main worry is whether their new government will be smart enough and tough enough to meet that challenge--and whether ours will.

Elliott Abrams was a deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush.