The new Palestinian cabinet is full of Arafat supporters. As many as 14 ministers are expected to be old Arafat appointees with just four to six loyal to Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen). While Abbas controls one "security" organization, Arafat still commands many far larger ones. Arafat refuses to accept Abbas' "demand" that the armed factions of Fatah, such as the Al-Aqsa martyrs brigade, be dissolved. Arafat will continue to be the puppeteer, no matter whom the audience sees on stage. He will resemble Richard Gere in the film "Chicago," pulling the strings and providing words for his dancing marionettes.
Abbas retains his hard-line views. If implemented, they will jeopardize Israel's very existence. In an interview last month, he continued to justify "armed struggle" against Israeli civilians. He has never repudiated his 1983 book, The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and the Zionist Movement, which denies the Holocaust occurred.
The minimum requirement before moving ahead with any "road map" is for Abbas and his cabinet to renounce violence as a means of achieving their objectives and then begin dismantling the terror infrastructure that has murdered schoolchildren and adult civilians for more than three decades. If that happens, the pressure will shift to Israel to reciprocate. But it won't happen because this conflict isn't about "two states living side by side in peace," as President Bush wants. It is about creating a new state that will be used as a base to eliminate Israel.
That Palestinian objective won't change because abolishing Israel is in the corrupted blood of Arafat and all his henchmen, including Abbas. The standard for compliance about violence should be no different from that applied to the IRA by Tony Blair in Northern Ireland or to Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Surely President Bush knows this. Perhaps he is merely staging his own political theater to expose Arafat and company as the liars they are. That's fine, but Israel should not be required to buy a ticket to this show until it sees the last act.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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