- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006

Palestinian terror has claimed more innocent victims. This time it was seven members of a Palestinian family who for some unexplained reason decided to spend an afternoon at the Bet Lahiya beach ? the precise spot from which terrorists, under the eyes of the Hamas-led government, were launching their daily Qassam-rocket attacks at civilian targets inside Israel. Though the details are not yet clear, the killed were either in the direct line of fire of Israeli guns trying to neutralize the rocket launchers or victims of explosives which Palestinians had planted near the area.

While violence and bloodshed go on unabated, the Palestinian “President” Mahmoud Abbas has embarked on a diplomatic and political exercise which, though not really aiming to advance the peace process or to put an end to terrorism, could bring him more than a few dividends on both the home and the international fronts. Mr. Abbas has called for a referendum, to take place on July 26, on what is known as the “Prisoners Platform” — a document drafted by terrorist leaders of both Hamas and Abbas’ own Fatah organization, including a certain Marwan Barghouti, who is serving several life terms in an Israeli jail for terrorist activities. The platform gives the go-ahead to armed violence against Israeli civilians — though only in the territories — but it also pretends implicitly to recognize the State of Israel.

The precondition would be a full Israeli withdrawal to the vulnerable pre-1967 armistice lines, including East Jerusalem and all the Jewish neighborhoods surrounding the city, as well as relinquishing the strategically vital major population centers on the West Bank, referred to in President Bush’s famous letter to former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon ? recently reaffirmed by the president to Israel’s new leader Ehud Olmert. But this isn’t all; the document also requires Israel to accept U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194, which, to refresh our memory, declared that millions of Palestinian “refugees” should be allowed to enter the Jewish State. Mr. Abbas knows full well, of course, that anything even faintly resembling this document, just like the similarly worded “Arab Peace Initiative” adopted by the Arab League in 2002, could not possibly serve as a basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

But whenever the occasion arises, he will also talk about the international Quartet’s “roadmap,” conveniently forgetting that the Palestinian Authority under his leadership had consistently refrained from complying with even the first phase of the “map,” which called for an absolute end to terror and for breaking up the terrorist infrastructure. Political observers will continue to debate whether the failure on the part of Mr. Abbas to deal with the terrorists was by design or not. But be that as it may, it certainly doesn’t make his protestations sound very convincing.

The confrontation between Mr. Abbas and Hamas isn’t about peace with Israel, but about political supremacy — and money. He believes himself now to be in a win-win situation — putting Hamas on the defensive, forcing it to object to a referendum on Palestinian statehood — while on the other hand, he has become the almost universally acclaimed “good guy,” with Hamas playing the role of the villain. Even Mr. Abbas’ own Fatah organization, though parts of it have been cooperating with Hamas and other Islamist fundamentalist terror organizations, is now being depicted almost as a paragon of virtue and moderation.

Mr. Abbas’ immediate object is to block Mr. Olmert’s plans for further unilateral steps in the West Bank which would deprive the Palestinians of their customary blackmail practices. To serve this purpose he has, therefore, announced that he will make himself available as a negotiating partner, claiming that peace could be achieved “within weeks,” cavalierly overlooking his own history of noncompliance with previous commitments. Different Israeli governments over the last 13 years (ever since the ill-fated Oslo agreements, although some would say even earlier) had conducted ongoing negotiations with the Palestinian leadership, the only result being terror and more terror and growing intransigence on the Palestinian side. Few people, even in Israel, believe that unilateral steps, whether called “realignment” or “convergence,” are an ideal solution. Giving in to Palestinian siren songs and continuing the present deadlock would be worse.

Ambassador Zalman Shoval served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 1990-1993 and from 1998-2000.

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