New Palestinian Maneuver

The high terror alert declared over this year’s Passover for the fourth year in a row was a grim reminder of the 2002 Seder massacre in Netanya, four months after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shook hands with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on a truce at Sharm el Sheikh. It was the direct outcome of the Sharon-Peres-Mofaz reversion to the Palestinian policy of their predecessor, Ehud Barak, in the face of the first stages of Yasser Arafat’s suicide terror campaign – appeasement in the face of violence and the threat thereof. I
But now the lines of appeasement are broader. Israel’s willingness to withdraw from the Gaza Strip is being treated not as a gesture for peace but an appetizer. Two Palestinian officials, minister for civilian affairs Mohammed Dahlan and national security adviser Jibril Rajoub have upped he ante in response to proposed coordination to make the process orderly for the both sides: Keep your pull-back, they said – unless you can also pile on a precise list of infrastructure you are leaving behind (as a gift), hand over the international border crossings to Palestinian control – including the Israel-Egyptian crossing – and cut through the southern Israeli Negev to give us a corridor from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. This land strip would sever Israel into two parts.
The last demand demonstrates in the clearest fashion that a Palestinian state and the state of Israel cannot both have contiguous territory – it is either one or the other. This may be why no American president before George W. Bush endorsed the novel notion of a Palestinian state in the first place. And Bush too had to turn the clock of history as far back as 1949 to make his vision of the first Palestinian state tenable by gouging lumps out of Israeli territory. This fact was glossed over by Sharon in his last two encounters with the US president.
In April 2005, the only coordination taking place is between the offices of Sharon and Abu Mazen, facilitated by Washington in the person of security coordinator Gen. Ward, helped along by special official emissaries, and defense minister Shaul Mofaz in his talks with Dahlan.
It should be stated here that Israel has no contact with any Palestiian forces in control of the ground, namely Fatah, al Aqsa Martyrs (Suicides) Brigades, Jihad Islami and above all Hamas. But most significantly, neither do Abbas or Dahlan have any say in these groups’ decisions. The terrorist groups are allowed to continue their massive preparations for their next offensive undisturbed – even in the two towns handed over to Palestinian control, Jericho and Tulkarm – just so long as they do not interfere in Palestinian horse-trading.
When asked by Israel and the US why the Palestinian Authority has not yet disarmed the terrorists in those towns as was promised, they say: We need more time. The Palestinians thus proceed along two tracks – bargaining to see what they can get ahead of the negotiations for a quid pro quo under the Middle East road map, while not hampering in any way the Palestinian capability for unleashing upgraded terrorist attacks on top of the low-grade violence that continues steadily. Should Palestinian politicians be judged too accommodating, the terrorist groups will simply escalate their attacks, thus proving their precept that terrorism pays. In any case, they reserve the freedom to do so at any time.
Four developments have taken place in the last two weeks:
1. A secret Sharon-Abbas deal is revealed by debkafile‘s Palestinian and Washington sources to be behind the three-week delay in Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and N. West Bank – and not just the fact that nothing is ready. To pre-empt a Hamas victory, Abu Mazen needs the Palestinian general election to take place after the Israeli withdrawal. The new tentative dates are therefore August 15 for the evacuations and September 2 for the poll. But since Abu Mazen is never decisive about anything, he is hemming and hawing over this deal too, leaving Sharon up in the air about the evacuation date.
2. Under the same deal, Israel is turning a blind eye to Abbas’ purported reform of Palestinian security organizations – even though he is just going through the motions. The new men have no authority to force obedience from any of the Palestinian organizations – from Fatah to Hamas – any more than they defer to orders from Abbas himself or his new interior minister Nasser Yousef. Under the favorable impression of these meaningless moves, preparations advance for welcoming Abu Mazen to the White House as the long-awaited Palestinian reformer.
3. In the absence of any crackdown – and as long as Israeli forces hold their fire – the terrorist groups can prepare more Passover massacres like the one that was prevented this year by Israel’s high alert and full mobilization.

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