Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Mitchell Bard: Myth & Fact #164

MYTH #164

“Israel must help Mahmoud Abbas improve his standing among Palestinians to facilitate the peace process.”


The death of Yasser Arafat, who remained unwilling to make peace with Israel until the end of his life, has stimulated hope that a new Palestinian leader will emerge with the courage and vision of Anwar Sadat and King Hussein, who is prepared to negotiate the establishment of a Palestinian state that will live in peace beside Israel.

The Palestinians have chosen Mahmoud Abbas to lead them, and now the Israelis are waiting to see if he is prepared to take the necessary steps to advance the peace process. Abbas is someone who is well-known to the Israelis, because he was involved in past negotiations. They have welcomed his election and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon immediately announced his desire to meet with Abbas.

No one should have any illusions about Abbas. He was the number two person in the PLO and a co-founder of the Fatah terrorist organization [with Arafat].

It is possible to find many irredentist statements made in the past by the new President, some of which were uttered during his recent campaign. His uncompromising position on the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees, for example, bodes ill for negotiations. On the other hand, he also demonstrated the courage to publicly criticize the intifada, has said that violence has not helped the Palestinian cause, and declared a readiness to make peace with Israel.

Some suggestions are being made that Israel must make gestures to Abbas to help him consolidate his power; however, Israel owes him nothing. It is Abbas who must show that he has both the will and ability to reform the Palestinian Authority (PA), to dismantle the terrorist networks, and to end the violence. Words are insufficient; he must take action. The agreements signed by the Palestinians are unequivocal about what is required of them; they cannot evade their responsibilities with conciliatory statements to the press in English or cease-fires with groups such as Hamas that remain committed to Israel’s destruction.

The terrorists’ identities and locations are known. The PA has an estimated 40,000 policemen and multiple security services. Abbas must use the resources at his command to disarm and arrest anyone who illegally possesses weapons and threatens or engages in violence.

Though it has no obligation to do so, Israel has taken steps to show its goodwill, including facilitating the Palestinian elections (which international observers reported were unfettered by Israel [Jerusalem Post, January 11, 2005]), releasing prisoners, and withdrawing troops from parts of the territories. Israel has also said it is prepared to negotiate the disengagement rather than act unilaterally. A unity government was formed in January 2005 that now includes the Labor Party, which increases the flexibility Sharon will have to negotiate in the future.

The immediate hope for a negotiated settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians now rests on the shoulders of Abbas. The early days of his regime were not encouraging, as two terrorist attacks were perpetrated (one of which killed six Israeli civilians, two of whom were Arabs) in what either were direct challenges to his leadership or an indication that he has not abandoned the two-track policy of Arafat; namely, to talk about peace with the Western media while calling for jihad in Arabic and orchestrating a terror campaign against Israel.

Coexistence is impossible unless Palestinian violence stops. There can be no attacks on Jews anywhere, no mortars or rockets fired into Israel, and no incitement to violence. This is not a case of giving extremists a veto over negotiations; Israel has not said that Abbas must stop 100 percent of the incidents before it will talk, but Israel does insist that he demonstrate a 100 percent effort to stop them.

This article can be found at
Source: Myths & Facts Online -- A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Mitchell G. Bard, To order a copy of the paperback edition of Myths and Facts, click HERE. Myths & Facts is also available in Spanish, German, French, Russian, Portuguese, and Swedish.

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