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February 8, 2005
Will We See The Palestinian Triangle Play Again?

The Israelis and the Palestinians will declare a formal cease-fire at their upcoming summit, ABC News reports, but a familiar tone comes from Hamas in response:

Israeli and Palestinian leaders announced late Monday that they would declare the formal end to more than four years of fighting during the summit in this Egyptian resort. It was the clearest indication yet of momentum following Yasser Arafat's death, the election of a new Palestinian leader and a signal from the White House that it plans a renewed push for peace.

"The most important thing at the summit will be a mutual declaration of cessation of violence against each other," said Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian negotiator.

Erekat said the agreement also includes the establishment of joint committees one to determine criteria for the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, and the other to oversee the gradual withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian cities on the West Bank.

An Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the cease-fire agreement and said it would also include an end to Palestinian incitement to violence, such as official Palestinian TV and radio broadcasts that glorify suicide bombers and other attackers.

In the month since the Palestinian elections, the cycle of violence and harsh rhetoric has gradually slowed almost to a stop. Mahmoud Abbas ordered Palestinian television to stop showing the inciteful programming it had shown ad nauseam during Arafat's reign. The Israelis have pulled back in several areas, although they continued to respond to provocations, especially in Gaza, and started talking about a West Bank pullout for the first time in years.

However, a familiar and sour note interjected itself into the proceedings, as Hamas made clear that it hasn't accepted the idea of a cease-fire yet:

But a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip struck a cautionary note, saying the radical Islamic group, which has been responsible for hundreds of attacks against Israelis during the past four years, would evaluate the summit before committing itself to halting its campaign of violence.

"We agreed before with Mahmoud Abbas that if he succeeds to achieve our national goals, he should come back to the Palestinian factions to discuss the issue, and after that we will decide our stand," Mahmoud Zahar said.

In other words, Hamas plans on continuing its terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians until Abbas gets them everything they want -- and then they'll consider a cease-fire. That belies ABC's assessment later in the piece that Abbas appeared to have gotten commitments from terrorist groups to stop the attacks.

In reality, the Palestinians have once again set up the Triangle Offense, also known as the Palestinian Three-Step. That uses the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad to play the Israelis against world opinion. One or two members of this Palestinian caucus will pledge to stop the violence, while the third conducts terrorist actions until Israel retaliates. That allows the other two Palestinian groups to claim that Israel violated the cease-fire and place the blame for renewed violence on their enemy.

Maybe this time will be different. Maybe Abbas really has Hamas and Islamic Jihad under control. But until Abbas starts arresting their leadership, all I see is another variant of the Three-Step, set to a more pleasant melody.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 8, 2005 6:46 AM

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