Oct 11, 2006 6:03 pm


A staple of US policy throughout the Bush years has been to regard Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah party he co-founded with Yasser Arafat as moderates who have accepted Israel's existence. In contrast, Yasser Arafat was shunned by Bush following the latter's 24 June 2002 speech calling for new Palestinian leadership untainted by terror and corruption. However, the Bush Administration subsequently endorsed the 2003 Roadmap peace plan, which subverts Bush's call for new Palestinian leadership and has engaged in the unrewarding practice of pretending that the two are one and the same. This has entailed it continuing to deal with Abbas and other Arafat loyalists, as I have described in detail here . It has also required disregarding the clauses in Fatah's Constitution that still call for Israel's destruction and the use of terrorism as well as Fatah's record of terrorism which is as impressive as that of Hamas – 405 Israelis killed by Fatah between September 2000 and December 2005, as against 442 killed by Hamas in the same period.
President Bush recently provided an unvarnished example of this approach in his 20 September meeting with Abbas, whom he described as a "man of peace who believes in a two-state solution" and declared that "there must be leaders willing to speak out and act on behalf of people who yearn for peace, and you are such a leader, Mr. President."
However, a revealing disclosure from Abbas himself pours cold water on these sanguine assumptions. In an October 3 interview on Al-Arabiya and Palestinian Authority television, Abbas stated:

"Hamas is not required to recognize Israel… It is not required of Hamas, or of Fatah, or of the Popular Front to recognize Israel, all right? The PLO, in 1993, recognized Israel … Every person has the right to say 'I do not recognize,' okay? It's your right. It is the right of every organization. But the government which will be formed, and which will function opposite the Israelis on a daily basis … every hour and perhaps every second, there will be contact between Palestinian ministers and Israeli ministers … [Abbas then gives an example of 500 million dollars in taxes intended for the Palestinians, but put on hold by Israelis. The Palestinian finance minister has to come to an agreement with the Israeli finance minister regarding the transfer of that money.] So how can he make an agreement with him if he does not recognize him? So I do not demand of Hamas nor any other [organizations] to recognize Israel. But from the government that works with Israelis in day to day life, yes."
I conclude that the Bush Administration is being duped, or is willing to appear to be duped, perhaps for unavowable reasons, by a poseur.

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