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Moment of Truth for Sharon, Mazen

Thursday, 12 June 2003 12:00 AM

As reported by The New York Times, immediately after the summit meeting in Aqaba, Jordan, between President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen and Jordan’s King Abdullah, a major leader of Hamas responded to the conference by saying, “No one can accept the [conciliatory] words of Abu Mazen.” Mazen had expressed support for a two-state solution and the immediate end of violence.

Hamas intends to continue its campaign of violence, targeting both Israeli soldiers and civilians. That terrorist organization implemented its intentions over the weekend when it joined with similar groups, including Islamic Jihad and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, a division of Fatah controlled by Arafat, in claiming responsibility for killing four Israeli soldiers.

When Israel responded by targeting and wounding a major Hamas leader in Gaza, both Mazen and Hamas objected. The latter through a spokesperson said the Israeli retaliatory response endangers the peace process. What peace process? The Palestinians talk as though they had walked through Alice’s looking glass.

Sharon, to his credit, has dismantled five of the 14 outposts scheduled for removal in accordance with his immediate “Road Map” commitment. The Palestinian response given by an aide to Arafat, according to The New York Times, was, “It’s a phony show that has no value.”

Before the Aqaba conference, the Arab leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan met with President Bush at Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, where they committed themselves to the “Road Map” proposed by President Bush requiring immediate peace measures to be taken by both the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The first step on the part of the Palestinians is the forswearing of violence. On the part of the Israelis, it is the immediate removal of 14 identified illegal settlements, some occupied, some vacant, which they are doing. Both prime ministers – Israeli and Palestinian – said the right things and were applauded worldwide for their courage and commitment to the peace process.

However, both prime ministers were denounced and threatened by dissidents at home – Hamas in Gaza, Jewish settlers on the West Bank. Each government now must keep the commitments made to the other.

Regrettably, Abu Mazen has expressed his unwillingness to use force to suppress the terrorists, saying, “We will not allow anyone to drag us into a civil war.” Can Sharon be expected to use force against the settlers when they resist the army’s demolition of settlements and the Palestinian Authority will not take similar forceful action against Palestinian terrorists?

Whether or not the partners can go forward will depend in no small part on the actions and statements of the surrounding Arab countries that have publicly committed themselves to the peace process.

The leaders of those countries stated they were prepared to oppose and put pressure on the Palestinian Authority and Arafat if they supported the dissidents and denounced Abu Mazen when Mazen attempted to carry out the conditions required of the Palestinians.

Should President Bush apply pressure on the Israelis to carry out their commitments if the Arab states renege on theirs?

Will the U.S. and the other members of the Quartet, i.e., the European Union, U.N. and Russia, tell the Palestinian Authority and Abu Mazen that if they fail to take all appropriate measures, including force, to end violence and prevent Hamas and other terrorist groups from attacking Israeli civilians and military personnel, they will forfeit the Quartet’s support?

Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority must be willing to take on the extremists who have caused their fellow citizens enormous suffering and pain. Violence must be met with overwhelming government authority and force. Arabs will have to arrest and deter Arabs. Jews will have to arrest and deter Jews.

Unless the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority confront the radicals, there is no hope for peace. Unlike earlier tests, the answer to this question will soon be known.

It is alleged that in April of 2002, Andrea Koppel of CNN predicted the end of the state of Israel. According to a person present when she criticized Israel’s retaliatory military operation against terrorists in Jenin, Ms. Koppel said, “Yes, I believe we are now seeing the beginning of the end of Israel.” She denies having made the statement.

This weekend, reporting the murder of four Israeli soldiers in Gaza by terrorists, she referred to the incident as a “bump in the road.” Some bump.

The moment of truth has arrived. Will the leaders of the two separate nations rise to the occasion?

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As reported by The New York Times, immediately after the summit meeting in Aqaba, Jordan, between President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen and Jordan's King Abdullah, a major leader of Hamas responded to the conference by...
Thursday, 12 June 2003 12:00 AM
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