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October 22, 2005
Abu Mazen, The Man Of Peace?

President Bush offered a strange endorsement to the beleaguered Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in a little-noticed Rose Garden address this week. Two who did notice are Scott Johnson at Power Line and Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal, and both take exception to the characterization. Bush's assertion that the terrorist formerly known as Abu Mazen -- the man behind such atrocities as Black September, the kidnapping and murder of Israeli Olympic athletes in 1972 -- is a "man devoted to peace" in the same week that gunmen from his own Fatah faction are believed to have murdered two PA policemen responding to a coffeeshop argument sounds seriously out of touch with reality.

As Stephens explains, the culture of violence has helped to create the Palestinian Authority as we know it, and Abbas' leadership of the autocracy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (such as it is, under the pressure of Hamas and Islamic Jihad) depends on the continuation of violence for its survival. The Palestinians have long taught their children that death and violence provide the only honorable long-term solutions in their struggle against the Jews and the West. Peaceful coexistence under those conditions has no value; they want total victory after total war, and their continuing support of Hamas in elections demonstrates that.

In truth, the entire enterprise in what Scott acerbically refers to as Arafatistan resembles a turf war between competing crime families more than a nascent state worthy of its own sovereignty. A true state would have central control over the means of statutory enforcement, for one thing; as Stephens points out, Abbas hasn't even bothered to try to achieve that. His "government" likely can't even outgun Hamas, let alone all of the disparate interests of the Palestinians, across ideological, clan, and community lines.

When the nations of the world negotiate with terrorists, this is the inevitable result -- a territory just itching to create a civil war between armed factions instead of a stable society able to govern itself. For all of the violence in Iraq, one can easily see that the central authority has grown stronger and has the ability to enforce its laws. The terrorists there have grown more and more marginalized while the rebirth of a democratic Iraq has proceeded at a reasonable pace. With security assistance and political support, Iraq's central government will have the ability to keep Zarqawi and his lunatics on the fringe or even annihilated in the near future. Hamas, on the other hand, will likely win a majority in the Palestinian assembly and will continue to have better weaponry and troop strength than the government it purports to join.

Terrorists will rule Arafatistan, including Abu Mazen, because the world rewarded their terrorism with official recognition in 1993. The conference at Oslo should have demanded civilian representation unmarked by terrorist operatives before opening talks on statehood. Now all we have for choices in Arafatistan are differing flavors of terrorism with which to negotiate, and even the world's staunchest fighter against terrorism cannot bring himself to recognize the error. It dooms the Palestinians to yet another generation of violence, most of it self-inflicted, and all of it unproductive.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 22, 2005 10:09 AM

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