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Enter Stage Gabbing

Enter Stage Gabbing

Everybody but me

The Professor

By Steven Martinovich

(September 8, 2003) - Its official now: the U.S.-backed "road map" to peace is dead. In an off-camera interview with CNN on September 2, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat declared that Israel's war against Hamas had killed – besides a number of high profile terrorists – any chance of the terrorist group and its peers of committing to another cease fire.

"The road map is dead, but only because of Israeli military aggression in recent weeks," he said in a complete denial of reality.

Not content with just blaming Israel, Arafat also held responsible the Bush administration for not doing more to keep the peace plan going, suggesting that Iraq and the 2004 election was a bigger preoccupation for U.S. President George W. Bush. Given his history it shouldn't be surprising that Arafat didn't lay a majority of the blame where it was really deserved – with terrorist groups and himself.

The road map to piece was doomed from the beginning thanks to several terrorist groups' refusal to commit to an all-out cease fire. Hamas, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and other groups formally abandoned their cease fire, after flouting it repeatedly, with Israel several weeks ago despite the fact that Israel withdrew its soldiers from agreed areas and released prisoners; the later not even a requirement of the road map but a condition by the terrorist groups in exchange for not launching suicide attacks. Nonetheless, the suicide bombings of Israeli targets continued unabated.

Arafat's response to the repeated breaking of the cease fire was non-existent, leaving the Israelis to pursue the military option that further destabilizes the situation. As in the past, Arafat failed to tackle the terror groups despite the fact that he has retained control of Palestinian uniformed police, doing little to rebuild and reform them, and handpicked the PA's latest security chief. The end result is a freezing of diplomatic relations between Israel and the PA "unless [Israel] sees that the PA is taking tangible steps to deal with the infrastructures of terror." They'll probably be waiting awhile.

This only served to undercut former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas who seemed to want to advance the peace process though even he was less than unequivocal in his desire to shut down groups like Hamas. Thanks to the power struggle that Arafat pulled Abbas into, which of course Arafat says has been exaggerated by Israel as a means of sowing dissension in the PA, Palestinians had little confidence in Abbas and did not see him as a legitimate leader. An appearance in front of the Palestinian parliament on September 4 saw Abbas argue he should stay in office, not discuss what he's managed to achieve after 100 days in office.

It's in vogue to blame Israel for the collapse of peace proposals but at least in this case the blame falls squarely on Arafat. After all, not two months ago with Abbas at his side Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recognized the legitimacy of a Palestinian state, that it should be contiguous and that Jewish settlements would not be an issue. Arafat's response? Despite appearances, he has refused to renounce violence – or as he terms it, resistance – as a means of achieving his objectives, dismantle terrorist groups, and commit to a political process. Without real steps like these, Israel was all but forced to launch its military campaign against terrorist groups.

President Bush was entirely correct on June 24, 2002 when he stated that the peace process could only advance with new Palestinian leadership, one not compromised by ties to terrorist groups. The onus is now on the Palestinians to throw their support fully behind peace and a campaign against terrorist groups before a new peace process can be launched. The road map is dead not because of a lack of a sincere desire on both sides to end the killing, though you could make a strong case for that as well, but because Arafat refuses to accept his responsibility for being its killer.

Thanks for reading,

Steven Martinovich

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