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Seizing The Initiative From Our Leaders

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The domestic and international debate about the Palestinians has become thoroughly detached from reality. On the one hand there are the friendlies. These include the Olmert government, the Israeli media, the Bush administration and some European governments. The friendlies say that the “moderate” Palestinian Authority Chairman and Fatah terror organization commander Mahmoud Abbas is the key to peace. Everything must be done they say, to strengthen Abbas against the Hamas terror organization, which they oppose.

But if last week’s bloody battles between Fatah and Hamas terrorists in Gaza showed anything, they showed that Abbas is anything but weak. When he wishes to confront Hamas, he is more than capable of doing so. The reason that peace has eluded us is not because Abbas is weak but because he doesn’t want peace with Israel. He will battle Hamas to enhance his power but not to secure chances of peace with Israel. Far from the key to ending the Palestinian jihad against Israel, Abbas is part of the problem.

Pitted against the friendlies are the unfriendlies. These include people like EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, UN officials, the European press and Haaretz columnists. Although members of this group adore Abbas, they object to the friendlies’ refusal to accept Hamas’s rise to power in the PA. The unfriendlies call for Israel to negotiate with Hamas on the basis of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s offer for a cease-fire with Israel in exchange for an Israeli retreat to the 1949 armistice lines. If Israel refuses to accept Hamas’s offer, this camp warns, it is liable to find itself facing Al Qaeda rather than Hamas in the future, and that, they claim, would be much worse.

As Johann Hari of Britain’s Independent newspaper put it last week, “Every time the Israeli govern-ment rejects a Palestinian leader because he is too hard-line, they do not get a cuddly Gandhian moderate in his place. They get somebody more hard-line still.” Hari, who went on to advocate that Israel recognize Hamas and give it Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, wrote these lines after he visited with Al Qaeda terrorists in Gaza and described how these jihadists are terrorizing Gazans into accepting Taliban-like re-pression of women and modernity.

Both the friendlies and the unfriendlies share a fundamental assumption and acceptance of Palestinian jihadism. They assume that Palestinian society will never be anything but jihadist and that the only change it will undergo will be one of further radicalization. By limiting their argument to whether Israel should give its land to either Fatah or Hamas, they accept as legitimate the view that for the Palestinians all roads lead inevitably to Osama bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. For both groups, the goal of diplomacy is to arrest, not reverse, this trend. And both believe Israel should be willing to pay whatever is necessary to appease those who hate it less, or face those who hate it more.

In the interest of “strengthening” Abbas, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert refuses to take any actions to defend southern Israel from Kassam rocket attacks. Olmert cannot imagine a “peace” policy that doesn’t involve Israeli land transfers to terrorists and so is incapable of conceiving of a policy other than the cur-rent failed one of embracing the fantasy of Abbas as the key to utopia.

Israel, of course, has options other than surrendering to either Hamas or Fatah. It could defeat them. A policy aimed at victory would be based first of all on a recognition that today there is no power structure in the PA, including the PA militias, that is not a terrorist organization. It would similarly recognize that there is no such thing as a good terrorist organization. Consequently, a strategy for winning would recognize that Israel must launch a concerted campaign aimed at defeating and dismantling the PA as a whole.

A policy for victory would also start from recognition that the common thread joining together all the Palestinian terror factions is jihad. In light of the ideological nature of their common war against Israel, a campaign based on military might alone cannot bring about any long-term sociological or political change in Palestinian society. Unless the ideology of jihad is defeated, a new crop of jihadists will rise up to replace the current one.

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