hold hamas accountable - have a good weekend

  1. 5,748 Posts.
    Jun. 19, 2003
    Editorial: Hold Hamas accountable

    Two weeks after the Aqaba summit we can sadly say that so much has happened, yet so little has changed.

    The road map, which the Palestinians lost no opportunity to pompously claim was accepted by them and rejected by Israel, has since been rendered a political non-starter by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

    Considering that the whole mechanism of that document is sequential, hopes were high in Washington that Abbas's blunt anti-terrorism pronouncements, combined with the general fatigue caused by the past 32 months' bloodshed, would quickly extinguish the violence, which in turn would be followed by Israeli withdrawals, and ultimately touch off diplomatic momentum.

    Alas, Abbas's pragmatic pronouncements, much like Arafat's before him, have proven hollow. Not only because peaceful Israeli citizens have been murdered since Aqaba just about as repeatedly and deliberately as before it, but because Abbas has made it plain he will only seek to end his people's terrorist war through verbal means. As it turned out, Abbas's idea of ending the violence was to negotiate among the Palestinian factions a voluntary and temporary cease-fire with Israel.

    Never mind that with this kind of non-plan in his pocket Abbas was in no position to declare the intifada over, particularly not in the presence of the president of the US. The question is how the Palestinian premier could have possibly thought that Hamas's, Islamic Jihad's, and Fatah's thirst for innocent blood would be quenched by any language other than the one they are so famous for speaking, and the only one they are known to understand: force.

    Yet as if this refusal to hold the bull by its horns were not fatal enough, Abbas is now seeking to incorporate the Islamist terrorist groups in a newly formed body called the Unified National Leadership.

    Apparently, Abbas thinks that Hamas can be domesticated, in the spirit of French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin's distinction between "mass movements" and terrorists, and his conclusion that Hamas is "a necessary player in the peace process."

    Hamas proudly proclaims that it is dedicated to Israel's destruction, or as its leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi put it 10 days ago, to evict from this land "every last Jew." If this is not clear enough, the Hamas charter states, "There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad. Initiatives, proposals, and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

    What Hamas stands for is really not even worth debating. What Israel is meant to do in the face of its intentions and actions fight also goes without saying, and is solidly within the Israeli consensus. What remains to be seen is what the PA does about its main challenger to ruling the Palestinian people itself.

    During the decade in which Arafat has ruled the Palestinians, Hamas has been kept away from power by a PA that enjoyed, in this regard, the firm backing of Israel and the US. That is how Hamas ended up not running in the 1995 "election" that resulted in Arafat's "landslide" defeat of one obscure opponent, the late Samiha Khalil.

    In fact, Hamas commanded a substantial following on the street. Leaving it out of the political process was as misguided as annulling the Islamist FIS's legitimate victory in the only real Arab election ever, which took place in Algeria 11 years and more than 100,000 civil-war casualties ago.

    With his election having avoided a contest with his real rivals, Arafat lacked the popular authority for the kind of compromises he had purported to deliver. That is how both the Israelis and the Palestinians ended up with the worst of all worlds: a morally disempowered leader who squints in the direction of extremists, who in turn know they will not be called to task for the havoc they wreak, because they are not the ones formally in power.

    It follows that, if he is not prepared to meet Hamas in the battlefield in order to serve peace, then Abbas should at least meet Hamas in the ballot box.

    If Hamas loses that contest, Abbas will gain the power he apparently feels he lacks in order to confront Hamas. And if Hamas prevails, which it certainly might, then Ahmed Yassin et al will suddenly be expected by the voters to produce not only martyrs, but also jobs, education, mobility, opportunity and all other basic facets of life.

    Iran's Islamists are learning these days that passing such a test of civic delivery is pretty much impossible unless fanaticism and obscurantism are abandoned. Ultimately, Hamas, too, will learn this, with or without Abbas's help.
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