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Israel Has More Than Earned The Right To Go Second

It was not for nothing that last June, President Bush declared that for any progress towards Palestinian goals, there must be a “new and different Palestinian leadership … not compromised by terror.” Plainly the President had enough of Arafat’s duplicitousness and deceit.

“Today, Palestinian authorities are encouraging, not opposing, terrorism,” he said. He went on to say that any new Palestinian leadership must “engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists” and “dismantle their infrastructure.” Finally sensing that the President was serious, the post of Prime Minster was created by the Palestinians to run their “government”, ostensibly to demonstrate that Arafat was out as leader even if he remained on the letterhead. Abu Mazen was then designated to serve as Prime Minster and assume the reins of power and confront among others, Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, head-on. Yet, the debate over the “road map” and whether the Palestinians or Israel must take the first step, indicates that the Palestinians are at it again, turning things on their head. Indeed, Israel is being asked to “empower” Mazen with concessions in order to enable him to take power away from Arafat! It is downright perverse, even by Middle Eastern standards.

We and others have noted that Mazen came to power only because Arafat allowed him to do so. And Arafat continues in effective control of the Palestinian Authority and remains as its Chairman. His supporters now dominate Mazen’s Cabinet. Arafat controls Palestinian finances. While Mazen appears to have control over something referred to as “internal security,” Arafat still has direct control over various armed groups such as the Tanzim and Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades and “national security.” Further, Arafat announced the other day that he has established a National Security Council, which will have oversight over all of the security agencies, and is to be under the direct control of Arafat!

Still, Mazen is being offered by the Palestinians as their response to President Bush’s statement about the need for Palestinian “regime change.” Moreover, as reported in The Jerusalem Post, Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Ahmed Queri told U.S. envoy William Burns that Mazen could only fulfill Palestinian security obligations if Israel ceases IDF operations in the “territories” and takes other confidence-building measures as easing the closure, releasing the tax revenues it is withholding from the PA, and releasing Palestinian prisoners like West Bank Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and PLO Executive members such as Abdel Rahmim Maluah and Taisir Khaled.

Queri also told Burns that Mazen plans to talk to the militants rather than crack down on them:

There are two understandings. The Israeli understanding, which calls for a [Palestinian ]civil war … and there is a Palestinian understanding based on dialogue and the Palestinian national interest.

So at best, Mazen & Company intend, in any event, not to disarm Hamas and the others, but rather to try and get them to agree to a cease fire. Of course this would just allow the terrorists to recover from the devastation wrought by the IDF operations in recent months which have staunched the number of attacks.

In sum, for Israel to agree to suspend its anti-terror efforts prior to any decisive move by Mazen against the terror groups is simply a prescription for business as usual. We have seen where that leads. President Bush should hold true to his June vision.

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