Time for a Reality Check

(U.S. News) Mortimer B. Zuckerman - Expectations are being raised too high. The election of Abbas to succeed Arafat is a positive, but he must now convince Palestinians that they will have to detoxify their society before anything like a real peace can exist. Too many Palestinians have devoted themselves for far too long to the eradication of Israel and the Jews. Realism requires us to recognize that Abbas is not a strong leader and that, in fact, he has a long history of weakness in the face of Palestinian terrorism. He has fraternized with Hamas, snuggled up to Islamic Jihad, and promised terrorists that he will not disarm them but will protect them. Combating terrorism is both a practical necessity and an essential litmus test of peaceful relations. A temporary cease-fire is no solution. It will simply raise Israeli suspicions that time is being bought to give Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades a respite to rebuild their arsenals. Terrorist groups are rarely, if ever, truly neutralized unless they are disbanded and disarmed, so Abu Mazen cannot restrict himself to co-opting the terrorist groups, as he proposes. He will have to confront them. What cannot be wished away is the culture that glorifies terrorists. Abu Mazen must be held responsible for ending the propagation of hatreds. Progress for the Palestinians is incompatible with a culture of hatred in which every public platform, every mosque, every educational program is used for exhortations to destroy Israel. Which is why, sadly, the poisonous legacy of Arafat may take a generation to excise. The Bush administration should focus on what is realistic. First, press the Palestinians for real reform at home to expand the rule of law, consolidate their security services, and root out the corruption so that Western aid begins to build a self-sustaining economy and not cosset a corrupt elite. Next, Abu Mazen should be pressed to clean up the vile texts in Palestinian schools and media. Why should we subsidize hatred? Above all, what the West - especially America - must not do is indulge in self-deception and repeat the mistakes of the past - not if it wants something more than a photo opportunity that ultimately leads to further conflict and loss of life.

2005-01-17 00:00:00

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