A Real Test for the Palestinians

[New York Times] Editorial - After six months of crippling sanctions, Hamas' leaders are trying to figure out the very minimum they need to say - and the even less they plan to do - to end their isolation and salvage their government. Skepticism is more than warranted. But Hamas' admission of weakness could provide at least a chance to quell the violence and resuscitate peace talks. The radical Islamist Hamas - which came to power after last January's legislative elections - has been negotiating to form a national unity government with the Palestinian chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate, and his Fatah party. Hamas still refuses to say the words necessary to unlock international aid: that it will renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist. Words are important. But worrying about who said what should not divert attention from what should be the real test of any Palestinian government: whether it will commit to a genuine cease-fire and use its security forces to halt, rather than abet, rocket and terrorist attacks against Israel. The cutoff of financing has taken a harsh toll on the Palestinian people, especially in Gaza. Even then, Hamas began to buckle only after government employees, unpaid for months, went on strike. The Europeans are eager to resume aid, but all that leverage will be lost if they settle for words rather than deeds. The Bush administration is right to warn against that. Working with the Europeans and moderate Arab states - all desperate to see Washington engage - the administration should take the lead in trying to negotiate a cease-fire and a prisoner exchange.

2006-09-18 01:00:00

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