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SAVING MAHMOUD ABBAS

Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas Meets President George Bush In Washington While Under Siege Of Hamas In Gaza

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: 'I Will Ask Cabinet To Release 400 More Palestinian Prisoners And I Urge Abbas To Open New Chapter In Relations'

Analyst David Essing: 'Abbas Is Trying To Create a Hamas-Hybrid - Part terrorist And Part Political; Despite Red Carpet, Doubtful That Bush Will Buy It'

Mahmoud Abbas Landing in U.S.

Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will have his job cut out for him when he meets U.S. President George Bush in the White House today. Abbas can be expected to come with a list of Israeli violations of the recent Sharm el Sheik agreement; this against the backdrop of Hamas launching more than 100 mortars and Qassam rockets last week at Israeli civilians. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is flying home from his U.S. visit after again calling on the Palestinian leader to back up his statements about halting terrorism the terror attacks.

U.S. President George Bush will likely go all out to bolster the sagging Mahmoud Abbas who being blindsided by Hamas. The Palestinian leader will likely receive the red carpet treatment and public praise from the U.S. for his anti-terror rhetoric. However, Abbas arrives at the White House just a week after Hamas terrorists lobbed over 100 mortars and Qassam rockets at Israeli civilians in the Gaza Strip and across the border into Israel. Miraculously, only one Israeli was injured. If there had severe Israeli casualties, Prime Minister Sharon would have been forced to hit back hard and the current peace moves would have been jeopardy. Sharon has been blasted by some right-wingers for not responding in kind. MK Yuval Steinitz of the Likud, who chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, did not pull his punches. He charged: 'It was a disgrace that the IDF was ordered to hold fire while Israeli civilians were holed up in their bomb shelters!'

:: IsraCast Audio ::

Sharon's Strategy: The Prime Minister is 'turning over backwards' in giving Abbas every chance to take charge. Not only did he call on the new Palestinian leader to open a new chapter with Israel, Sharon also talked of releasing another 400 Palestinian prisoners (five-hundred others were previously freed). In effect, the Prime Minister pre-empted Abbas who accuses of not releasing enough prisoners and breaking the deal on handing back control of West Bank towns to the Palestinian Authority. A senior Israeli security official calls the Abbas charges, 'hutzpa!' Not only is the PA doing nothing to halt the shelling, it has not kept its commitment to confiscate the weapons of dangerous terrorists in the 2 towns of Tul Kerem and Jericho that were evacuated by the IDF.

Bush Strategy: Although the U.S. President can be expected to make every effort for 'Saving President Abbas', the Palestinian leader will only survive if he's willing to save himself; neither Bush nor anyone else will be able to do it for him. Sharon has gone out on a limb and is facing fierce opposition at home in sticking to his Gaza withdrawal. Abbas is also going to have to take some risks if he wants to move in the direction of a Palestinian state. Bush offered Yasser Arafat a Palestinian state; all Arafat had to do was stop sending suicide bombers. Arafat refused and the U.S. realized he was not a peace partner and treated him as such; Arafat became irrelevant.

Hamas Demonstration

Hamas 'Hybrid': The same deal is on the table for Abbas and although he does not dispatch terrorists, if he does not act to stop them, Abbas will also become irrelevant. Sharon says he is ready for painful concessions but not at the expense of security for Israeli civilians. This is a proposition that Bush, deep in his own war against terrorism, surely understands. If Abbas thinks that he will be able to sway the U.S. President he will be sadly mistaken despite the desire by Bush to keep the Israeli-Palestinian process on track, if only to help America on Iraq. Ariel Sharon left the U.S. after doing his part to try and keep the ball rolling; Abbas obviously does not want to be blamed in American eyes for torpedoing U.S. peace moves the way Arafat was; whether or not he has the resolve to get serious and take charge is another matter. That will only become clear in the weeks after he returns home where Hamas is waiting and flexing its muscles - bombarding Israeli targets last week. By engaging the terrorists in the Palestinian elections, Abbas is trying to create a Hamas 'hybrid' - part terrorist and part political. But Hamas leaders vow never to give up their weapons, is then Mahmoud Abbas turning upside-down any new thinking about how to start out on the Roadmap to Israeli-Palestinian peace?

David Essing

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