August 13, 2003
Yesterday’s pair of Palestinian suicide bombings – which claimed the lives of
two Israelis and wounded a dozen others – should serve, if nothing else, as a
critical reminder of the most significant barrier in the path of Middle East peace:
Diplomatic attention in recent weeks has focused on alleged Israeli-constructed
hurdles to peace – the fence being built along Israel’s border and in parts of the
West Bank to keep out terrorists and the “insufficient” number of Palestinian
prisoners freed from Israeli jails.
Neither, however, is part of the U.S.-brokered “road map” agreed to by
In fact, fighting terrorism – indeed, actively dismantling terrorist groups – is the
prime Palestinian obligation under the road map.
But it is the one obligation that Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas refuses
to consider, saying he will not risk a Palestinian civil war.
Which is why it was welcome to see the White House respond to the attacks –
the first fatal bombings since a temporary “cease-fire” went into effect – by
declaring that “dismantling terror networks is a very high priority, the highest
For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned that he would not move
forward on the road map “until terrorism ceases completely.”
But he reportedly sent assurances that he would not respond with a
military reprisal – which is precisely what the terrorists hope to provoke.
The twin attacks, apparently unrelated, took place in Rosh Ha’Ayin and the
West Bank city of Ariel, and were perpetrated by Hamas and the Al Aqsa
Martyrs Brigade, which is linked to Arafat’s Fatah movement.
And those are precisely the groups against which Abbas should be
moving – by whatever means necessary.
He now pleads that his security forces are not yet strong enough to do the job.
In which case, he must make clear publicly that they will act forcefully – and in
the near future.
Instead, Abbas has pledged non-confrontation.
He insists that terrorism will be ended diplomatically – something no
other leader has managed to accomplish.
As Secretary of State Colin Powell warned just a few weeks back,
Abbas “cannot be the prime minister of a Palestinian state based on democratic
principles” – as demanded by Washington – if terrorism is allowed to flourish.