Cal  Thomas

It does not bode well for President Bush's newly announced Middle East peace effort that within hours of his stated optimism about the future of the "peace process," the first candidate to announce for the office vacated by Yasser Arafat's death was Marwan Barghouti, who is serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison for an attack that killed four Israelis and a Greek monk.

"We've got a great chance to establish a Palestinian state," the president told a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair last Friday. In a statement following Arafat's death, the president said that the United States would deal with a "democratic" leadership that emerges from free elections. Can elections, which will be held before Jan. 9, produce a true democrat, or one more Palestinian president committed to killing instead of peace?

The other possible candidates also reflect Arafat's strategy of using terror to eradicate the State of Israel and all Jews. There are no leaders who openly favor making peace with Israel because Arafat had them executed.

Three who have assumed senior leadership positions of the major Palestinian Arab institutions are Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen), Farouk Kaddoumi and Ahmed Qureia. A quick look at their resumes does not give confidence that these guys are the peace-loving democrat leaders sought by President Bush.

Mahmoud Abbas, the new chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, served for 40 years as Arafat's deputy. He orchestrated numerous terror attacks against Jews. On July 23, 2003, Abbas said in Cairo, "Cracking down on Hamas, (Islamic) Jihad and the Palestinian organizations is not an option at all."

Both The New York Times and Israeli Radio reported on March 31, 2003, that Abbas, a former Palestinian Authority prime minister, had offered Cabinet positions to leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and praised Arab terrorists imprisoned by Israel as "political prisoners" and "heroes." Abbas is the author of a book that denies the Nazis murdered 6 million Jews.

Farouk Kaddoumi is the longtime "foreign minister" of the PLO. He has been named chairman of Fatah, which controls the Tanzim and Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade. These groups are on the official U.S. list of terrorist organizations. Kaddoumi told the Hezbollah television station, Al-Manar (as quoted in Ha'aretz Nov. 11) that violence against Israel is still a legitimate option.

Cal Thomas

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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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