Mah­moud Ab­bas and the ‘cease-fire’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

In its ef­fort to marginal­ize Pales­tinian re­jec­tion­ists, the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion is seek­ing to prop up Pales­tinian Author­ity (PA) Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas, de­spite a con­sid­er­able body of ev­i­dence that Mr. Ab­bas is not a se­ri­ous part­ner for peace. In Oc­to­ber, Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice, speak­ing in Wash­ing­ton to the Amer­i­can Task Force on Pales­tine (an or­ga­ni­za­tion de­voted to blam­ing Is­rael for the Pales­tini­ans’ woes) said that, for “peace and dig­nity” to pre­vail in the Mid­dle East, it is es­sen­tial for “mod­er­ate” Arab lead­ers like Mr. Ab­bas to be able to show that “their vi­sion for the fu­ture can of­fer a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive than vi­o­lence and ter­ror­ism.” At a Nov. 30 meet­ing with Mr. Ab­bas in Jeri­cho, Miss Rice ef­fu­sively praised the PA leader, say­ing that he en­joys “the deep re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.” She went on to hail Mr. Ab­bas for his “lead­er­ship” and “com­pas­sion,” as well as his “ex­tra­or­di­nary” ef­forts to ar­range the cease-fire be­tween Is­rael and Pales­tinian ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions that of­fi­cially be­gan Nov. 26.

The ef­fect of the cease-fire was to fore­stall an Is­raeli in­va­sion of Gaza to thwart the ter­ror­ists who rou­tinely fire rock­ets into neigh­bor­ing Is­raeli towns. Since that time, Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert, true to form, has ex­er­cised “re­straint,” while ter­ror­ists have fired 40 more rock­ets at Is­rael. Most im­por­tant of all, the “cease­fire” has per­mit­ted the ter­ror­ist groups to con­tinue smug­gling arms from Egypt into Gaza for use against Is­rael — smug­gling made pos­si­ble by the lethar­gic per­for­mance of Egyp­tian se­cu­rity forces on the other side of the border.

Mean­while, in Gaza, the Ha­mas-dom­i­nated Pales­tinian Author­ity gov­ern­ment ac­tively en­cour­ages a who’s who of ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions like the Ira­nian- and Syr­ian-backed Pales­tinian Is­lamic Ji­had and the Pop­u­lar Re­sis­tance Com­mit­tees to es­tab­lish their pres­ence, while Mr. Ab­bas and se­cu­rity ser­vices loyal to him do noth-

Ev­ery day that goes by un­der cur­rent con­di­tions [. . .] is

an­other day in which Is­lam­o­fas­cist forces grow stronger

and Is­rael’s de­ter­rent ca­pa­bil­ity grows weaker.

ing to stop them. In­deed, his own Fatah or­ga­ni­za­tion in­cludes the al Aqsa Mar­tyrs Brigades, one of the most deadly ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions op­er­at­ing in the West Bank and Gaza.

Ev­ery day that goes by un­der cur­rent con­di­tions — with Is­raeli forces no longer pa­trolling the Gaza/Egypt border and no Pales­tinian se­cu­rity force in place to stop the ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions from smug­gling heavy weaponry into Gaza (or for that mat­ter con­duct­ing large-scale mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions against the ter­ror­ists al­ready op- er­at­ing there) — is an­other day in which Is­lam­o­fas­cist forces grow stronger and Is­rael’s de­ter­rent ca­pa­bil­ity grows weaker. Un­for­tu­nately, th­ese re­al­i­ties seem lost on pol­icy-mak­ers in Wash­ing­ton and Jerusalem, who doggedly in­sist that the so­lu­tion to the cur­rent prob­lem lies in strength­en­ing the “mod­er­ate” Mr. Ab­bas so he can “fight” ter­ror­ism. Is­raeli sources say pri­vately that in re­cent months, the State De­part­ment has leaned on Mr. Olmert (a politi­cian in do­mes­tic free-fall) to agree to per­mit Mr. Ab­bas to ex­pand Force-17, a Fatah mili­tia. Mr. Olmert, for his part, has re­sponded by em­brac­ing Mr. Ab­bas and be­com­ing his num­ber one Is­raeli cheer­leader, some­thing that is prob­a­bly not a very good long-term strat­egy. In May, Mr. Ab­bas ap­pointed Col. Mah­moud Damra, for­merly a top aide to Yasser Arafat, to head Force-17 de­spite the fact that he was wanted by Mr. Olmert’s gov­ern­ment for run­ning a West Bank ter­ror cell that had killed and wounded scores of Is­raelis. He was ar­rested by Is­rael three months ago.

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion is vig­or­ously pro­mot­ing U.S. Army Lt.-Gen. Keith Day­ton’s ef­forts to ex­pand Force-17 de­spite a dis­turb­ing his­tory over the past decade in which Pales­tini­ans use their Amer­i­can se­cu­rity train­ing to fa­cil­i­tate ter­ror­ist op­er­a­tions against Is­rael. In 1996, CIA Di­rec­tor Ge­orge Tenet was au­tho­rized by Pres­i­dent Clin­ton to be­gin train­ing the Pales­tini­ans in anti-ter­ror tac­tics. In 1998, Mr. Clin­ton brow­beat the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment into agree­ing to ex­pand the pro­gram. When the Pales­tini­ans went to war with Is­rael on Septem­ber 29, 2000, it turned out that scores of the Pales­tinian trainees joined al Aqsa and other ter­ror groups in­volved in sui­cide bomb­ings and other at­tacks against the Jewish state. (In the com­ing weeks, we will pro­vide more de­tail of how U.S.as­sis­tance has been used to train more com­pe­tent Pales­tinian ter­ror­ists.)

Any­one who be­lieves Mr. Ab­bas will re­form this sit­u­a­tion is de­lud­ing them­selves. As Miss Rice was prais­ing Mr. Ab­bas in Jeri­cho, the Is­raeli group Pales­tinian Me­dia Watch is­sued a re­port show­ing how PA television (which is un­der Mr. Ab­bas’ con­trol) and the Fatah-con­trolled news­pa­per al-Hayat al-Ja­dida glo­rify sui­cide bomb­ings and the use of chil­dren in war­fare; sup­port ter­ror­ist in­sur­gents in Iraq and de­pict the United States as a men­ace to the Arab world. Mah­moud Ab­bas looks in­creas­ingly like Yasser Arafat in a busi­ness suit.

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