Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Ever since he signed a cease-fire agreement with Israel in February, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has pursued a policy toward rejectionist organizations that is strikingly similar to the approach pursued by Yasser Arafat following the 1993 Oslo Accords. Instead of using force against those organizations that remained committed to terror, Palestinian leaders embarked on what amounted to a plan to beg the terrorists to behave themselves.

Less than seven months after Mr. Arafat signed the Oslo I accord with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Hamas carried out the first suicide bombing of the Oslo era — a powerful demonstration of its contempt for the Palestinian chairman’s purported commitment to make peace with Israel. Yesterday, Mr. Abbas received a similar message from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, one of the terrorist groups he attempted to cajole into moderation when he visited Syria last week. The jihadists claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing of a mall in Netanya, a city on Israel’s Meditteranean coast.

On Thursday, Mr. Abbas visited Syria — the Arab world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism — where he met with President Bashar Assad and representatives of several of the most violent Palestinian terrorist groups, including Hamas, the PFLP and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. The major focus of his meeting was his continued effort — still unsuccessful — to persuade Hamas to join his government. But he also met with Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who has been opposed to the ceasefire with Israel from the beginning. The jihadist carried out the Feb. 25 deady bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub. But in Damascus last week, Mr. Abbas bravely soldiered on with his campaign to persuade Mr. Shallah to change his ways. Yesterday Mr. Shallah gave his response.

Until and unless Mr. Abbas can be persuaded to get serious about confronting the rejectionists, Israel has no functioning peace partner on the Palestinian side.

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