This week was the first time that the Palestinian Authority publicly acknowledged its responsibility for the Aksa Martyr Brigades terrorist group which is designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department.
In an attempt to solve an employment dispute between the PA and the Aksa Brigades, the central committee of Fatah, which is to the PA what the Politburo was to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, met to discuss the difficulties of terrorists who have recently been laid off by the PA. PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, who is touted as the great white hope for Palestinian reform by the Bush Administration, announced at the meeting that the needs of the terror group were receiving the full attention of the Palestinian leadership. In his view, the most important thing was to protect terrorists wanted by Israel for attacks against Israeli citizens from the long arm of the IDF. That is, in Qurei's view, the most urgent goal is to provide a safe haven for terrorists.
In the coming weeks, US envoys David Satterfield and William Burns are scheduled to arrive in the area in yet another attempt to jump start negotiations between Israel and the PA based on the so-called Road Map. The idea now being touted is to reduce the existing twelve Palestinian militias into three and to have them come under the control of Qurei or PA security boss Muhammed Dahlan. But who will be in these newly "reformed" militias? On Sunday night, Qurei and his colleagues agreed that the terrorists from the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades would be asked to join.
Also this week, Qurei met in Gaza with Hamas terror chiefs Mahmoud Zahar and Ismail Haniyeh. Their talks, aimed at reaching a rapprochement between the PA and Hamas, centered on Hamas's conditions for joining Qurei's cabinet. Hamas demands the health and education ministries and, if it receives them, it will allow its terrorists to also join the "reformed" PA militias.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Dahlan said that Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists were welcome to join the PA security forces. Mahmoud Abbas, the much heralded former prime minister said that if it were up to him, he would have brought Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists into the PA security forces. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are also designated as foreign terror organizations by the US State Department.
This week also, outgoing CIA director George Tenet met in Cairo with Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak to discuss Egypt's involvement in the Gaza Strip in the event that Israel follows through with its planned unilateral withdrawal from the area. Egypt, which is receiving plaudits from Washington for its willingness to lend a hand in ensuring order in Gaza in the aftermath of the proposed withdrawal, has made clear through word and deed that it views putting Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists on the payroll of the "reformed" PA militias as is its central goal.
In sharp contrast, this week, Egyptian security forces rounded up members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
The men were accused of having undergone terror training in the PA areas which, Egyptian officials allege, they were planning to use in order to carry out terror attacks in Egypt, Iraq and Chechnya. That is, today, even as the IDF is deployed in Gaza, and as the PA is in charge of all the militias, the area is being used as a training ground for global terrorism.
For their part, Egyptian officials have made clear time and again that in the event of an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, Egypt will have no interest in curbing Palestinian terror groups operating in the area against Israel. According to Ha'aretz, a senior Egyptian official has stated bluntly, "We will not be the policemen for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip."
This is not surprising given that moderate Egypt is in actuality one of the prime state sponsors of Palestinian terrorist groups. Not only has it enabled weapons smuggling from Egypt to Gaza, according to MK Yuval Steinitz, Chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, "Egypt is the logistical support base for Hamas." In the event of an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, Egypt can be counted on not to curb the power of Palestinian terrorists but to enhance it. It will demand that Israel end the naval blockade of the Gaza coastline and it will further insist that the Gaza airport, closed since the start of the war, be reopened. According to military analyst Ze'ev Schiff, the reason for this is that Egypt has an interest in Palestinian terrorism against Israel because Egypt has an interest in a weak Israel.
Speaking to the issue of what will likely occur in Gaza as a result of an IDF pullout, no less an authority than the architect of the pullout plan himself, National Security Advisor Giora Eiland, inferred to a Washington audience recently that if the Lebanon model holds, Gaza will become a haven for terrorists and a strategic threat to Israel as a result of the accumulation of sophisticated arsenals that can be used to take out vital infrastructures and conduct mass murder. Eiland also explained that if the Lebanon model were to hold, the introduction of foreign forces to the area would not ease the violence but would more likely act as cover for terrorists as they take action against Israel.
One can reasonably ask if all of this is the case, what is Israel's problem? Why is the Israeli government acting so irrationally? But in truth, given the actions of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, running roughshod over his government ministers, MKs, party members, and political support base, the fact that the Israeli government under Sharon has ceased to base its policies on the national interest of Israel must, sadly, be taken as a given for now.
In the meantime, there remains one government that seems to still recognize the need to stop terror funding and to prevent the provision of safe haven for terrorist organizations. This government sits in Washington, DC.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has gone on the offensive from Karachi to Kansas City in stemming funding to terrorist organizations. It has invaded two countries and sent its military to spots around the globe to prevent the entrenchment of terror groups and to disrupt their activities. Yet the Bush administration is still funding groups that support, abet, produce and finance Palestinian terrorist organizations. The US government supports Sharon's half-baked plan that will render the Gaza Strip a terror training base to which jihadis from all over the world will gravitate for training and from which they will emerge, ready to kill on demand.
It has been argued that the Bush administration cannot be more Zionist than the Israeli government. But this is a false argument. In curbing its support for the PA and in ending its support for the transfer of Gaza to the control of Egyptian supported terrorists, the US will not be acting in Israel's interest. It will be advancing its own national security interests. The sad and terrible thing about Sharon's policy spasms is that by continuing to allow the PA to operate and by calling for an Israeli retreat when the war is still ongoing and the enemy mutates by the day, Sharon is not merely harming the interests of his own country, he is harming the interests of the US in winning the war on global terror.
Palestinian Media Watch this week submitted a report to members of the US Congress and the Senate in which it stated example after example of how US financial assistance to the PA is being used to advance terrorism. The US provides financial assistance to Palestinian municipalities whose leaders instruct their citizens in jihad and inculcate them to hate and work towards the destruction of Israel and America.
USAID funds Palestinian universities even as these universities allow Hamas and Islamic Jihad to operate openly
on their campuses espousing their genocidal ideologies and recruiting students into active involvement in terror attacks. According to the PMW report, seven students studying at USAID funded universities have carried out suicide bombings that have murdered hundreds of Israelis.
USAID assists the Palestinians in spite of the fact that Palestinian NGOs have refused to sign a form committing themselves not to aid terrorist organizations and in spite of the fact that the PA's legislative council issued a condemnation of the US for requiring aid recipients to prevent the transfer of US taxpayer dollars to terrorist organizations.
Aside from reconsidering its refusal to see the PA as it sees every other terrorist organization and regime in the world, the US has to ask the question how its support for Palestinian statehood squares with its commitment to overthrow regimes that support terrorism. The Palestinians themselves say every single day that their "reformed" security forces will simply be more overtly steeped in terror after their reconstitution than they have been to date. This week the PA admitted what the international community has been denying in the face of overwhelming proof for the past three years. It admitted that the Aksa Martyr Brigades is not "loosely affiliated with Fatah." The Aksa Martyr Brigades are Fatah and a branch in the PA itself.
And it wasn't Arafat who made the announcement. It was Qurei, the "reform" prime minister and it was Dahlan the "reform" security boss who made it clear that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are also welcome to join the PA. So given this, how can the US possibly have a policy of support for Palestinian statehood when it is abundantly clear that such a state would be a terror stronghold no better than Afghanistan under the Taliban?
Before the Sept. 11 attacks, Washington could be excused for following Jerusalem's lead when Israel's government insisted that transferring territory to terrorists would enhance security. But in the post-Sept. 11 world, it should be clear to Washington that continuing to cultivate terrorists will not only not advance US interests, it will cost innocent human lives.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.