Unmentioned in Aqaba, Arafat Set to Destroy Peace

Both prime ministers put their best feet forward and pronounced the words that President George W. Bush wanted to hear at the end of their 90-minute summit in the idyllic Red Sea resort of Aqaba on Wednesday, June 4.
What will happen to all those noble sentiments after the US president is gone from the Middle East?
The most striking speech came from Mahmoud Abbas who solemnly declared that the Palestinian-Israeli dispute has no military solution. “We oppose terror and violent actions as contrary to our religion and inconsistent with the state we aspire to. The armed intifada must end and we must resort to peaceful means to achieve our goals. The Palestinian prime minister promised to stop the stream of anti-Israeli incitement emanating from the Palestinian media and went on to say: The Palestinians do not ignore the suffering of the Jews through history. It is time to bring this suffering to an end. Abu Mazen also declared he recognizes the pre-1967 frontiers of the state of Israel including Jerusalem.
The words were scarcely out of his mouth when a Hamas spokesman angrily rejected them and said the group had no intention of laying down arms or becoming a partner in the deals struck at Aqaba.
Ariel Sharon, sidestepping the loaded word “occupation”, declared that Israel has no interest in governing Palestinians; they should government themselves, but we cannot undertake to advance towards that goal until violence and incitement are abandoned. If all sides undertake their obligations – that is fight terrorism to the finish – we can improve the humanitarian conditions of Palestinian people and go forward step by step towards President Bush’s vision of two states living side by side in peace and dignity.
The Israeli prime minister, already in hot water with his nationalist constituency, add ed another two red flags: “We recognize the importance of territorial contiguity for a viable state,” he said before political sources in Jerusalem hurriedly explained that Sharon was talking about opening up parts of the internal road network of the West Bank to Palestinian travel – not connecting the territory to the Gaza Strip by a special road. He also promised to immediately remove “unauthorized outposts”, a phrase that leaves plenty of room for maneuver.
President Bush roundly praised the two prime ministers, declared America was strongly committed to Israel’s security as “a vibrant Jewish state” (a code phrase in Middle East diplo-speak meaning there is no room for the pre-1948 Palestinian refugees.) and strongly supports the Palestinian cause of freedom and statehood. The Holy Land must be shared between the states of Palestinian and Israel in peace.
He promised US training and assistance for Palestinian security force and named John Wolf, assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, to head American force of monitors that will track implementation of the road map on the ground.
What actually came out of Aqaba bore little resemblance to most media predictions. Some Israeli pundits warned that the crunch of an imposed American solution awaited Sharon in Aqaba; others that Washington would make him sign onto a tradeoff between crushing terrorism and uprooting settlements – instead of which the three leaders sat down to talk about the co-existence between two thriving national entities.
After Aqaba, the Hamas threat to continue bombing Israelis fits into a new context. Now, even if Abbas and Mohammed Dahlan fail to negotiate a ceasefire with the Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashal who has come to Cairo especially, the buck stops there. The onus of putting the lid on anti-Israel terrorism and disarming the terrorists rests with the Palestinian prime minister and his government. Until they do, the agreements reached in the framework of the road map are suspended. All their provisions hinge on performance.
In that case, why pour so many words on the Hamas and its intentions? Very simply, to avoid talking about Fatah, Tanzim and al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and, most of all, their creator and boss, Yasser Arafat. The subject would have spoiled a truly historic occasion and, worse, forced its participants to do some serious thinking about how to fight him and his works – unless of course, the subject came up in closed discussions around the summit. After all, Arafat retains control of three-fifths of all Palestinian Authority security bodies, leaving only two fifths to Dahlan. If those three groups had agreed to suspend terrorist attacks as a gesture to strengthen Abu Mazen’s hand at Aqaba, the Hamas would have come on board. But since all three, obedient to the Palestinian president, are determined to continue their violent suicidal assaults on Israelis, and the Palestinian media, controlled entirely by Arafat, will carry on spewing out anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli hate propaganda hour after hour, where do those fine words at Aqaba lead?
President Bush can afford a policy of ignoring America’s enemies. He even ignores Osama bin Laden, whom the Palestinians give top rating as a world leader, according to a poll run by the Paris-based Herald Tribune. Bush can even gloss over the disappearance of Saddam Hussein and his sons. The US president, Ariel Sharon and even King Abdullah and Mahmoud Abbas, would certainly prefer not to think about Arafat and the threat he poses to all their plans. But that is a luxury Arafat will not permit Israelis to enjoy. He will make sure to disabuse the Aqaba Quartet of any illusions they may entertain; the Palestinian “armed intifada”, i.e. terror will go on uninterrupted by anything that happened on the Red Sea shore on Wednesday..

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