When Barack Obama took office, he pledged to bring real change to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process — and he has.  Unfortunately, it isn’t the kind of change for which anyone hoped.   Mahmoud Abbas has pledged to unite once again with Hamas, and has publicly promised to renounce American aid if necessary to do so:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is willing to give up hundreds of millions of dollars of US aid if that is what is necessary to forge a reconciliation deal with Hamas, the Associated Press quoted his adviser as saying on Monday.

Azzam Ahmed stated that “the Palestinians need American money, but if they use it as a way of pressuring us, we are ready to relinquish that aid.”

In other words, Abbas is perfectly content to take our money, as long as he can join forces once again with the Islamist terrorist group launching rockets from Gaza.  If for some reason we object to that, then apparently we can keep our money.

How nice!

Israel warned that any reunion with Hamas would mean the end of negotiations:

Hours after the meeting, a senior government official said that Israel will stop dealingwith the Palestinian Authority if it brings Hamas into the government.

“Abbas has to choose whether he wants peace with Israel, or peace with Hamas,” the official said. “He can’t have both. If he chooses peace with Hamas it will bury the peace process.”

I understand the need to keep up appearances, but the fact that Abbas is reaching out to Hamas at all reveals the peace process as a sham.  If Abbas was interested in peace, he’d never try to get back into the good graces of Hamas.  Abbas is probably looking at the new situation in Gaza now that Egypt is about to welcome the Muslim Brotherhood into governing, which is after all the parent organization of Hamas.  While Mubarak suppressed the Ikhwan, Gaza was isolated, both economically and diplomatically.  If Egypt draws closer to Hamas, it will be Abbas and the PA left out in the cold.

Jackson Diehl had this diagnosed yesterday:

First, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has no interest in negotiating with him, and never has. The 76-year-old Abbas has repeatedly shrunk from committing himself to the painful concessions he knows would be needed for Palestinian statehood. What’s more, he has despised and distrusted the Israeli prime minister since Netanyahu’s first term in office in the 1990s. Rather than bargain with Israel, Abbas seems inclined to go along with his aides’ plan to seek a U.N. declaration of Palestinian statehood at the next General Assembly in September.

This might not be so troubling for Netanyahu, who is also not eager to make concessions for a peace deal, if not for his second problem: Obama continues to believe that Israel’s government, and not the Palestinians, is the primary obstacle to peace.

The president made his mind-set clear from the beginning of his administration, when he chose to begin his diplomacy by demanding a complete freeze on Israeli settlement activity — a condition Abbas had never set but which he quickly adopted as his own. In a meeting with American Jewish leaders at the White House this month, Obama indicated that he hadn’t changed his mind. Abbas, he insisted, was ready to establish a Palestinian state. The problem was that Israel had not made a serious territorial offer.

Diehl’s column asked which side Obama wanted to take in the Middle East, but the problem may be more basic than that.  The President appears to be in way over his head in this region, playing a game of checkers while everyone around him is playing three-dimensional chess.  And that’s what passes for smart power these days.