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Mahmoud Abbas and the 'ceasefire'

Editor  |
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 "cease-fire" 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 nothing 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 operating 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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