WASHINGTON--Last June 24, President Bush announced a radical departure in American Middle East policy. He expressed strong support for Palestinian statehood but only under a new reformed Palestinian leadership that did not include Yasser Arafat.
The reason is uncomplicated: As long as Yasser Arafat wields power, there can and will be no peace between Israel and the Palestinians. In 2000, the most dovish Israeli government in history presented Arafat with the most generous offer the Palestinians have gotten from anyone--a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank with its capital in a shared Jerusalem. Arafat, intent on getting land without peace, responded by starting a now 31-month-old bloodbath.
For a long time, there was no Palestinian alternative to Arafat. Now there is. Abu Mazen, a close comrade of Arafat for 40 years, wanted to accept the Camp David 2000 deal. Moreover, Abu Mazen has spoken out against the intifada as a terrible historical mistake. Is he sincere? No one knows for sure, but his courage entitles him to at least a test of his sincerity.
On April 30, Abu Mazen was sworn in as prime minister by the Palestinian Legislative Council. The United States and its peace partners then released the road map to Palestinian statehood by 2005. The problem is that Abu Mazen is not yet in control. And he may never be.
The consistent and principled American policy had been that the road map and the push to statehood would occur only when a Palestinian government dedicated to real reform and real peace replaced the violent and corrupt Arafat regime. That has not occurred.
During the decade of the phony Oslo peace, Arafat had set up seven ``security organizations''--private militias and secret police--under his command. They were supposed to be transferred to Abu Mazen's control. They have not been. Arafat still controls five of the seven, including Force 17, which is actively involved in terrorism.
And Arafat controls more than guns. In pre-confirmation backroom maneuvering, Arafat managed to pack the ostensible Abu Mazen Cabinet with a dozen Arafat loyalists. Indeed, the crucial portfolios of foreign affairs and peace negotiations were given not to Abu Mazen's people but to Arafat's old guard.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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