How long is the Bush administration planning on putting up with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's terror circus?
Ahead of his visit with US President George W. Bush at the White House this Thursday, Abbas said on Saturday that he plans to demand that Washington beef up its political and economic support for the PA.
Abbas believes he has the right to expect US support because he has come through so well on his promises to reform the PA. He will tell the president that, just as he promised, he has reformed the PA security forces. He will further tell the president that in reaching an agreement with Hamas for a pause in terrorist attacks against Israel, he has done his part in combating terrorism. Finally, he will tell the president that in pushing ahead with the PA legislative elections in July he is the very model of a democratizing leader, in tune with Bush's plan to bring freedom and liberty to the Arab world.
These are all lies. Abbas's claims find their basis in a distortion of language. Ahead of the president's meeting with Abbas, it therefore behooves us to understand how he has twisted the meaning of the terms "reform," "combating terrorism," and "democracy" to serve his interests, all of which are inimical to everything Bush is trying to achieve in the Middle East.
Three years ago, Bush called for the PA to transform its 13 security services from terror organizations into counter-terror militias. This demand was immediately emptied of all substance by the Palestinians and their friends, then foreign minister and now Vice-Premier Shimon Peres, the heads of the EU, and the Near Eastern Bureau at the US State Department. Inside of a New York minute, the call for an overhaul morphed into a call for reorganization. Suddenly, the be-all and end-all of PA security reform became the merging of the 13 Palestinian forces into three proto-military organizations under a clear chain of command.
This demand had the advantage of being concrete and measurable, but the disadvantage of being completely meaningless. As long as the PA's security services are actively involved in terrorism, who cares how they are organized? It is far from clear that Abbas has actually fused his various militias into three groups, as he claims he has. But what is absolutely apparent is that not one of them is taking any action whatsoever against terror cells. On the contrary, they are openly bringing known terrorists into their ranks.
For years Abbas consistently stated that he would take no action against Hamas, Fatah or Islamic Jihad terror organizations. His mantra has always been that he will not start a Palestinian civil war. Since he replaced Yasser Arafat last November, far from changing his view that no harm should befall terrorists, he has strengthened them in every possible way. The first steps Abbas took involved legitimizing these organizations by openly meeting with their commanders. Next he sought to bring Hamas and Islamic Jihad into the PLO (of which his Fatah party and terror group is the largest faction). He has agreed to finance them from the PA budget and lavished them with respect and adulation.
SINCE LAST December Abbas has been selling Israel and the US the fiction of his cease-fire with the terror groups. This is a magical cease-fire that gets concluded anew, daily, right after the Palestinian shooters have finished their terror attacks on Israeli targets for the day.
And, every day, the press duly reports that a cease-fire has been reached and ignores the fact that, on the one hand, Israel is the only side that has stopped fighting and, on the other hand, that the PA's "reformed" security forces are helping the terrorist groups to rearm with rockets, mortars, bombs, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns and missiles, small arms and ammunition.
Assessing the increasingly dangerous situation, the IDF brass, from the Chief of Staff on down has warned that this reorganization and rearmament is the prelude to the next round of war set to begin the day after the IDF expels all 10,000 Jews from their homes, schools, businesses, farms and cemeteries in Gaza and northern Samaria this summer. In the wake of that operation,
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz casually mentioned last week that 43 communities in the Negev will be within rocket range of the Palestinians from Gaza. This, of course, will be a temporary situation since the Palestinians will no doubt quickly extend the range of their rockets the moment the IDF is no longer around to stop them from doing so.
As for Abbas's proclaimed ardor regarding democracy, it is important to notice the character of the support bases he is building for himself. During his campaign for PA leadership in December and January, he went out of his way to endear himself to the Palestinian public by visiting terror masters in Syria and Lebanon and being photographed every day with wanted terror bosses in Palestinian cities and villages.
Since his election, Abbas's pro-democracy work has involved enabling Hamas to participate in the Palestinian election process; signing the death warrants of Palestinians accused of assisting Israel in combating terror; and ratcheting up incitement in the PA media against Israel and the US.
Indeed, the only thing Abbas's "pro-democracy" machinations point to is just how premature the calls for Palestinian elections and statehood actually are.
And yet, rather than reaching this forthright conclusion, the Bush administration has been willfully ignoring it. This weekend we learned that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's representative here – the invisible US security coordinator for the PA, General William Ward – ordered the government to release yet another 400 Palestinian terrorists from prison and allow the terrorists who laid siege to the Church of the Nativity in 2002 to return to the PA from European exile.
Ward's argument apparently is that Israel cannot expect Abbas to abide by his commitments to Israel (and to Bush) unless it fulfills the promises it made to Abbas at the Sharm e-Sheikh summit last February. As reported in Haaretz, Ward told his Israeli interlocutors: "You complain that the Palestinians are not fulfilling their commitments, but what about your commitments?"
So for Ward, in order to get Abbas to fight terrorism, it is necessary for Israel to strengthen the terrorists.
The Bush administration seems absolutely committed to ensuring that the PA will not become a failed state on the model of Somalia or Lebanon. And yet, in its rush to strengthen Abbas in order to prevent chaos, the US is backing his bid to establish a Palestinian rogue state.
If President Bush really believes in his vision for freedom and democracy for the Palestinians, he would be well advised to tell Abbas that as long as the choices are between a failed Palestinian state and a rogue Palestinian state, the US opts for no Palestinian state.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.