- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2005

Four days before the next summit meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, chaos and anarchy have enveloped the PA-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza. In Gaza, Mr. Abbas has failed to take any meaningful steps to prevent rejectionist groups such as Hamas from targeting Jewish towns and settlements with rockets and mortars as Israel prepares to withdraw two months from now. And in the West Bank, Palestinian police appear to have ceded the streets to Fatah militias and criminal gangs.

Following Mr. Abbas’ election victory in January, Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed that Israel would turn over five West Bank cities if the PA fulfills security commitments, in particular disarming and restricting travel of fugitive terrorists in those cities. In the two cities Israel turned over, Jericho and Tulkarm, Mr. Abbas’ security forces are said to have “disarmed” as many as a third of the 52 fugitive terrorists and persuaded them to sign a written agreement not to engage in terrorism in the future.

But instead of actually disarming these people, the PA has incorporated them into its security forces, giving them the right to bear arms. The PA’s failure to carry out its commitments in Jericho and Tulkarm has led Israel to delay its turnover of three more West Bank cities — Ramallah, Bethlehem and Qalqilya.

Unfortunately for Mr. Abbas, his failure to take action against the criminal gangs who terrorize his own people makes it highly unlikely that Israel can turn over more cities to PA security control soon. A dispatch in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz captures the chaos that now envelops Ramallah, where armed thugs grope women in daylight. It describes the experience in a play center where an argument broke out between a mother and the owner. The mother tried to settle the dispute by calling in a relative, a member of one of the Palestinian security organizations, who fired a warning shot into the air. When Palestinian police arrived, they opened fire, too, as children and adults cowered in fear.

Mr. Abbas’ credibility as leader was further eroded by the PA announcement last week that it will free nine men wanted in the Feb. 25 bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub in which five Israelis died.

Mr. Sharon will no doubt remind Mr. Abbas that he is headed for disaster if this situation is not dramatically changed.

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