In the film The Godfather Part II, the well-meaning but feeble Fredo Corleone is unable to control his wife, who is causing a scene on the dance floor. A bodyguard walks over to Fredo and instructs him, "If you can't take care of this, I have to." Fredo agrees, and his wife is promptly dragged away by the bodyguard.
Much like Fredo before him, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is feeble (the jury is still out on the well-meaning part). And just like Fredo, Abbas faces a choice. Either he takes care of Palestinian terrorist groups, or Ariel Sharon has to.
This August, Israelis endured the gut-wrenching scenes of Jewish settlers being removed from their homes in the Gaza Strip by Jewish soldiers. Israeli Prime Minister Sharon carried on with his plans to withdraw from Gaza despite high-profile resignations from his government, assassination plots against him and the threat of widespread violence. As a result of an overwhelming show of military force and steely resolve by Sharon, Israel evacuated the settlers peacefully.
Israel voluntarily turned over land to the Palestinians, but made it abundantly clear that it was now up to the Palestinian leadership to crack down on terrorist groups, most prominently Hamas, which uses Gaza as a base to launch missiles at Israeli towns. The United States has also called for Palestinians to end terrorism. This position is embedded in U.S. policy as part of the "road map," which President Bush laid out in 2002 as a series of steps leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state and a secure Israel.
But Abbas has not heeded these calls. Whether due to a lack of desire or lack of guts, he has continued to coddle terrorist groups and has refused to disarm them. Abbas still pins his hopes on the absurd notion that if he allows Hamas leaders to participate in elections, they will turn peaceful -- even though the group's stated purpose is to destroy Israel.
"You cannot simultaneously keep an option on politics and an option on violence," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last Friday when asked about Hamas after a speech she gave at Princeton. "There simply isn't a case that I can think of internationally where that's been permitted to happen."
Rice used the example of Northern Ireland, saying, "it was understood that when Sinn Fein came into politics and eventually the IRA would disarm..."
The most recent flare up in violence between Israel and Palestinian terrorists began with an incident that you'd expect to read about in The Onion. On Sept. 23, Hamas was having a rally to show off the homemade rockets it intended for Israel, but the rockets exploded at its own rally instead, killing 21 people.
Hamas, not surprisingly, said an Israeli aircraft fired missiles at the crowd -- an account that was disputed not only by Israel, but by the Palestinian Authority as well. A forensic report by the Palestinian Authority showed that the shrapnel found in the bodies of those killed in the explosion came from Hamas's own homemade rockets.
But nobody should expect to look to terrorist groups for accountability. Hamas soon responded by firing about 40 missiles into southern Israel. Because of inaction by Abbas, Israel launched air strikes, made more than 400 arrests, including terrorist leaders, and it killed five in the process.
Predictably, Abbas blamed Israel for the escalation of violence, saying, "These repeated provocations by Israel against the Palestinians are not contributing to efforts by the Authority to keep the peace."
Let us get this straight. The Palestinian Authority acknowledged that Israel was not to blame for the explosion at the Hamas rally, which means that the missiles Hamas fired represented an unprovoked attack at Israel. How, in responding to an unprovoked attack, does Israel become the provocateur?
The U.S. has urged Israel to restrain itself to give Abbas more time to confront terrorist groups in his own way, and Israel has backed off for the time being. But the honeymoon will not last forever. And if Abbas doesn't take care of things, Sharon will.
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