February 27, 2005.
Spare us the condemnations, at least that.
For the Palestinian Authority to condemn what it has not lifted a finger
to prevent is almost a waste of breath.
Now, four more Israelis are dead, and many more wounded, in a suicide
bombing at a Tel Aviv nightspot on Friday.
More will die so long as PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas continues to
avoid the actions he must take.
Enumerating those actions has also begun to feel like a waste of breath:
collecting weapons, arresting terrorists, and ending incitement. Abbas is acting
as if he has a polite disagreement with the terrorists, one that can be resolved
by the usual political horse trading.
Indeed, there is little evidence that Abbas and the terrorists have more
than tactical differences.
The simplest measure of this is the matter of incitement. We do not believe that
the difficulty of arresting terrorists and confiscating weapons is an excuse for
not doing so, particularly at a time when Israel seems about to tear itself apart
to unilaterally evacuate settlements.
If the hesitation is to use force against fellow Palestinians, this does not square
with the readiness to sentence “collaborators” to a life of hard labor, as the PA
When it comes to the PA’s own official incitement, however, there is no
conceivable excuse for its continuation. Following a single conciliatory sermon
that Abbas personally attended, much was made of how the tune had changed.
But listen to this sermon by Sheikh Ibrahim Madiras broadcast on official
PA television on February 4:
“We shall return to every village, every town, and every grain of earth
which was quenched by the blood of our grandparents and the sweat of our
fathers and mothers. Our willingness to return to the 1967 borders does not
mean that we have given up on the land of Palestine. No! we shall realize this
right by any means it takes. We might be able to use diplomacy in order to
return to the 1967 borders, but we shall not be able to use diplomacy in order
to return to the 1948 borders.”
This cannot be dismissed as extremist rhetoric because Abbas committed to
ending incitement, it is being officially disseminated, and most importantly, no
PA official, from Abbas on down, has said anything that would act as a
counterbalance to such calls for Israel’s ultimate destruction.
On the contrary, Abbas himself campaigned on a similar platform of
commitments to “return” Palestinians “to their homes.” So long as the PA
continues to pump Palestinian minds full of promises of “return” to Israel itself,
the unavoidable conclusion is that the only difference between Abbas and the
terrorists is tactical: One is willing to use diplomacy for a while, the other
unwilling to use it at all.
The only way out of this is for the international community, including Israel, to
condition its support on the PA upholding its most basic commitments. The
problem is not that we have thrown too little money or too few prisoners at the
new Palestinian leadership.
The problem is that premature concessions send the signal that the PA
can get away with cosmetic steps, without losing crucial financial and political
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has demanded that Abbas make arrests in
this case, but that is clearly not enough. Unless the PA uses its 60,000 men
under arms to arrest those planning attacks, the attacks will continue,
regardless of efforts to “round up the usual suspects” afterward.
The international community cannot expect this process to work when it
continues to turn a blind eye to constant fomenting of hatred and rejection of
the Jewish state condoned by the PA itself.
Also, while there is no shortage of detailed blueprints for security
cooperation, we have not seen any concrete benchmarks set to promote a truly
free Palestinian society.
Until these benchmarks are laid down, it is unlikely that Abbas will push
forward with genuine democratization for his people and tackle the root causes
of Palestinian terrorism.