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U.S. President Bush Tries To Shore Up Palestinian President Abbas In Light Of Hamas Threat

Bush Makes Abbas The Same Offer Made To Arafat - A Palestinian State With All The Trimmings On Condition Of No Terrorism

Israeli officials: 'Nothing New In Bush Statement; U.S. President Is Consistent In Demanding Palestinian Halt To Violence In Order To Advance To Roadmap'

Bush & Abbas

U.S. President George W. Bush lauded Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at their joint new conference at the White House. Abbas was able to fly home with strong American backing for his declared policy of rejecting terrorism and negotiating a two-state solution with Israel. But after the hoopla of his Washington visit, Abbas returns to Ramallah to face Hamas and the other terror groups that vow never to give up their weapons and to use them against Israel when they deem fit.

‘Accentuate the positive’, that was the approach of U.S. President George W. Bush; but the question is can Palestinian leader ’Mahmoud Abbas ‘eliminate the negative’? While praising Abbas to high heaven for his declared policy of rejecting terrorism and negotiating peace with Israel, Bush also pointed out that terrorism and sovereignty don’t mix. In other words, the U.S. President is offering Abbas the same deal presented to Yasser Arafat in his vision of June 24th 2002. America will see to it that the Palestinians receive an independent state with all the trimmings if they agree to halt the terrorism and start negotiating in good faith with the Jewish state. Arafat could have taken on the terrorists but in fact he was in cahoots with them. Now it’s up to Abbas; he apparently wants to take up the Bush offer realizing that terrorism today is counter-productive, but is he strong enough to take on Hamas and the other groups still bound on destroying the Jewish state? That remains the heart of the matter - Bush chose to ignore the more than 100 Qassam rockets and mortars launched at Israeli targets less than two weeks ago and gave Abbas ‘another chance at the plate’. The U.S. President stated: ‘You cannot have a democracy based upon rule of law if you have armed bands of people who will use their weapons to try to achieve a political outcome’.

Israeli Reaction: Israeli officials do not see anything really new in the Bush comments. The U.S. President went out of his way to extend a warm welcome to Mahmoud Abbas after boycotting Yasser Arafat for two and a half years. The U.S. realizes that Abbas is facing great pressure from Hamas and too many demands cannot be placed on his shoulders; Bush could not hug the Palestinian leader and press him to crack down on the terrorists. One Israeli official puts it this way: ‘President Bush is apparently ready for Abbas to start fulfilling his commitments on the installment plan’. The official said it was unrealistic to expect Bush to refer to his written commitment to Sharon about settlement blocs remaining under Israeli control. Abbas had sought a similar U.S. commitment from Bush but didn’t get it. Moreover, the official believes that Bush will not accept Palestinian demands for short-cuts to the Roadmap that bypass the Palestinian commitment to disarm the terrorists. As for the future visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Jerusalem does not think she will be coming necessarily to pressure Israel. The bottom line is that Abbas must prove that his tactic of engaging Hamas in the Palestinian Authority will moderate the terror group rather than the other way around. The official went on to say that Israel is interested in handing over control of all 5 Palestinian towns on the West Bank to the PA but on condition they don’t become terror bases again for Hamas.

Postscript: This week in the White House, the strongest leader in the world met possibly, the weakest. At their private meeting, Bush may have given Abbas some tips about how to become a real Commander in Chief. What are the prospects for Mahmoud Abbas? The Palestinian leader by trying to co-opt Hamas into politics is taking ‘a middle of the road approach’ between appeasing the terrorists and compromising with Israel. As one politician once put it: ‘We all know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over!’

David Essing

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