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BUSH TARGETS SYRIA & IRAN

Amb. Zalman Shoval: 'Bush Speech Against Islamist Terrorism Recalls Churchill's Pledge Never To Surrender To Hitler'

'U.S.President Likely To Tell Palestinian Leader Abbas That U.S. Cannot Help Him, Unless He Combats Palestinian Terrorism'

'Co-opting Hamas Terrorists Into Palestinian Security Service Is Not An Option For Israel & Unlikely For U.S.'

Syrian President Assad and Iranian President Ahmadinejad

In one of his most forceful speeches, U.S. President George W. Bush has condemned Syria and Iran for supporting Islamist terrorism in general and Iraq in particular. Speaking in the White House, Bush declared that Iraq had become the battleground for the confrontation and he was determined to stay the course despite mounting criticism at home and abroad. What are the implications of the Bush address for Israel, the target of Palestinian terrorism that is also backed by Syria and Iran? Zalman Shoval, a foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and a former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., discussed various aspects with David Essing.

'U.S. President Bush's vow to fight Islamist terrorism recalls Winston Churchill's World War II address about never surrendering to Hitler. Thats the assessment of Zalman Shoval, a policy advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a former Israeli ambassador to Washington. Shoval says the Bush speech targets future American diplomatic and military policy. It was not only a reaction to opposition to the war in Iraq, the address also implied that nuclear weapons in Iranian hands could eventually be handed over or sold to terror groups.

Ambassador Shoval also believes it has implications for the upcoming trip by Palestinian leader Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) to Washington. Bush can be expected to tell Abbas that good declarations are not enough and the Palestinian leader must fulfill his Roadmap commitment to stop the terrorism and dismantle Hamas. Otherwise, the U.S. will not be able to help the Palestinians.

But what if Abbas tells Bush that he plans on co-opting Hamas terrorists into the official Palestinian security service. Shoval does not believe the U.S. President will agree to such a ploy keeping in mind that Hamas openly vows to annihilate the Jewish state. In effect, the Bush speech equates Hamas with AL Qaeda and other Islamist terror groups. At present, the Palestinian security service has not even started to deal with the terrorists. The former ambassador says the Palestinian Authority talks of arresting three terrorists, which can only be described as a farce.

And what of a Sharon-Abbas summit? Shoval believes that Sharon will reject any Abbas demand that Israel release Palestinian terrorists who have murdered or maimed Israelis. Rather than helping Abbas, such a step would support the Hamas position that its threats pay off and Israel gives in to terrorism.

Abbas Palestinian security forces number some 40,000 as compared to an estimated 1,200 Hamas gunmen. Ultimately Hamas poses a danger to Abbas and those Palestinians who wish to compromise with Israel. Why then has the Palestinian leader not taken charge? Shoval raises the possibility that Abbas, like his predecessor Yasser Arafat, may want to preserve Hamas as a strategic reserve to unleash against Israel in the future. In any case, the former ambassador says Sharon's disengagement from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements has now given Israel the upper hand in calling the diplomatic shots in the international arena.

David Essing

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