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SHARON - ABBAS CLASH

Israel's Ariel Sharon: 'Palestinian Authority Must Get Serious And Take On The Terrorists'

Palestinians' Mahmoud Abbas: 'Help Me, I'm Not Strong Enough'

Israel Resumes Targeting Jihad Leaders Plotting Fresh Attacks

Sharon - Abbas

After two Israelis were killed by Palestinian attacks, it came as no surprise that terrorism was at the top of the agenda when Israel's Prime Minister Sharon met Palestinian leader Abbas in Jerusalem. Sharon told Abbas the Palestinian attacks during the current lull were intolerable and Israel will not sit idly by while her citizens are being killed and wounded. At the same time, the Prime Minister spoke of new Israeli incentives. For his part, Chairman Abbas explained that he is still weak and needs Israel's help to strengthen his hand'. Although the two sides crossed swords over the issue of terrorism, they did agree to cooperate on several aspects of Israel's upcoming disengagement in the Gaza Strip and 4 West Bank settlements.

Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is taking a carrot and stick approach with Mahmoud Abbas; the Palestinian leader retorts by making a virtue out of weakness in not confronting the terrorists. This was the tone of their summit, the first since they met at Sharm el Sheik last February. At the prodding of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the two leaders saw see eye to eye on some aspects of Israel's disengagement. Abbas said 5,000 Palestinian policemen would be deployed in the Gaza Strip and that Israel would demolish the 1,200 plus homes of the evacuated settlers, the Palestinians would carry out the clean up with international funding.

Sharon's Carrots: Israel will hand back control of two more Palestinian towns Bethlehem and Qalqilya, more Palestinian workers will be allowed into Israel, checkpoints will be removed if possible and more Palestinian security prisoners will be released.

The Stick: Sharon made clear that time is running out for Abbas to act against terrorism (Not only have Israeli security forces arrested 50 Islamic Jihad suspects on the West Bank, an Israeli helicopter fired at a senior Jihad official in what appears to be an attempted targeted killing). Abbas replied he was still too weak to act against the Islamic Jihad and other splinter groups. And he added: Every bullet and mortar fired at you is fired at me too'. Later Palestinian Premier Ahmed Qurei blasted Sharon for not giving the Palestinians enough.

Assessment: At the Jerusalem summit, Sharon told Abbas he has not kept his part of the Sharm el Sheik deal about halting terrorism. If the Palestinian leader does not act, Israel's unilateral withdrawal will take place as planned, but it will not lead into the Roadmap that gives the Palestinians their own state. Sharon said in effect that terrorism is the key and that he is not willing to recycle Oslo; Israel makes good will gestures to the Palestinians who launch terror attacks when they don't get enough.

Abbas: Just how weak is he? A senior IDF intelligence officer says the Palestinian leader actually derives his power base from his weakness… in other words he uses it for not confronting the terrorists who violate the current lull. This in addition to the fact that terror groups are not interested in replacing him. In Jerusalem, Condoleezza Rice made the point that Abbas talks peace and non-violence and he was elected by the Palestinian people, indicating they are also willing to compromise with Israel. This is still a moot question. The election was boycotted by Hamas supporters and other extremists, and secondly they could see Abbas as being good PR for the Americans and Europeans while the terrorists carry on.

More Weapons: The PA is seeking more weapons for its security forces saying they need to be beefed up? Beefed up for what? Abbas publicly declares that he will not risk an armed confrontation with the terrorists warning that this could lead to civil war (On the contrary, Palestinian policemen turned their weapons on Israelis during Intifada II). Abbas prefers persuasion; that he can persuade the terrorists bent on Israel's destruction to agree to a negotiated peace. But even Hamas, which more or less abides by the current cease-fire is regrouping and planning a new wave of attacks when it deems fit. In fact, Abbas has postponed the Palestinian general election because he feels he is losing popular support to Hamas. So, is this the decisive Palestinian leader who is going to lead his people into an historic and painful compromise for peace with Israel? And what of further good will gestures to such a leader who demands numerous Israeli concessions.

Lift Checkpoints: Whenever the IDF checkpoints are lifted, the terrorists invariably exploit these areas for arms smuggling and infiltrating suicide bombers into Israel. Since February, the IDF says over 25 suicide bombers and terrorists have been caught at checkpoints.

Stop Building Security Fence: It was because of the horrific wave of suicide bombers that murdered hundreds of Israeli children, women and men that Israel built the security barrier in the first place. Former Shabak security chief Avi Dichter says figures show the security fence has already saved hundreds of Israeli lives. And what about the controversial route? That Israel is trying to dictate future borders with Palestine and stealing Arab lands? Israel says the fence is a security measure and not a political border and can be moved or removed in the future when there is no threat of suicide bombers. On the other hand, if the fence is political and if Israel had built it on the old 1967 (1949) green line, would the reverse also be true? That Israel accepted the 1967 line as its permanent political border without even minor modifications? Would this not have been a reward to the Palestinians for the wave of suicide bombers?

Left - Wafa Ibrahim trying to blow herself Right - Interviewed (CH 10)

More Humanitarian Aid: Case in point: the 21-year-old Palestinian woman, Wafa Ibrahim, who was being treated at Soroka hospital in Beer Sheva, for severe burns she suffered in a cooking accident in her Gaza home. She had a written appointment at the hospital to facilitate her passage through the Israeli checkpoint at Erez. The suicide bomber carried over 20 pounds of explosives hidden in her underwear to be blown up inside Soroka hospital. The explosives were detected by sophisticated new Israeli equipment. At the same terminal, several Israelis were murdered last year when they took pity on a limping Palestinian woman who said metal detectors sounded because she has a metal plate in her leg. The suicide bomber then detonated her hidden explosives. The terror groups have also used pregnant women and children as suicide bombers - Palestinian Authorities then complain about intrusive Israeli security checks. The same applies to allowing more Palestinian workers to enter Israel to earn a living. It is an undeniable fact, that the Palestinian terror organizations will exploit any hole they can detect in Israel's defenses in order to carry out attacks.

Gaza sea and airports: Not only the security fence is 'fencing in' the Palestinians, so is Israel's refusal to let them have an open sea and airport. Again the question is how to prevent them from being used for terrorism? Sharon says that Israel cannot fence in three million Palestinians and then claim she does not have responsibility for their welfare. Therefore, Israel is now willing to consider the Palestinians building a seaport in Gaza. This project will take several years. As for the airport that already exists, this issue also up for discussion.

Release Palestinian security prisoners 'with blood on their hand': This is one of the most sensitive demands for both Palestinians and Israelis. In light of the continuing attempts by suicide bombers what sense does it make to capture new killers in the act while releasing those already sentenced and behind bars?

Remove illegal outposts: Israel has promised the U.S. to dismantle the 28 illegal outposts on the West Bank after the upcoming disengagement. Sharon argued that to do so now would add fuel to the flames being stoked by right-wingers campaigning against his withdrawal plan.

Bottom line: Is Mahmoud Abbas taking a page out Yasser Arafat's book by drumming up expectations of future negotiations on the Roadmap while ignoring his present commitments to rein in and dismantle the terrorists? If Ariel Sharon is risking an Israeli civil war and his own assassination, is it not high time for Abbas to take some risks of his own?

David Essing

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