Meet the new Abbas

In December 2005 I wrote a short column for the Standrd about Mahmoud Abbas to which they gave the title “Meet the new boss…” I think it holds up in the light of recent events and may be worth a second look:

Are things getting better in Israel? Charles Krauthammer recently observed that “the more than four-year-long intifada, which left more than 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians dead, is over. And better than that, defeated.” Krauthammer believes that Israel’s Gaza withdrawal was a success and that the electoral campaigns underway in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority can fairly be attributed to Israeli unilateralism and Palestinian maturation.
All of which may be true. Yet the news from Israel isn’t all good. Far from it. The terror war against Israel certainly continues. Every day Israeli security forces receive 10 to 30 security alerts regarding prospective attacks within Israel. Only the successful attacks make the news, such as the December 5 bombing that took five lives at the mall in Netanya.
More worrisome is that the terror groups operate at will within the Palestinian Authority. Among them are Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad–all groups with foreign bases of support in Syria, Iran, or Saudi Arabia. These groups parade openly and operate with impunity within the territory of the Palestinian Authority. The numerous security services of the Palestinian Authority have yet to disarm them. Other terror groups actually operate as militias under the umbrella of Fatah, the party over which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas presides. Among them, for example, is the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade.
The Palestinian Authority has also taken action to support terrorists within its jurisdiction. Rachel Ehrenfeld reported on the Palestinian Authority’s continuing financial support of terrorists in a November 29 Jerusalem Post column. Ehrenfeld cited a senior PA official explaining that the Palestinian Authority has created a special committee to determine the pension eligibility of all members of armed organizations. Earlier reports indicate that the Palestinian Authority contributes $4 million a month to support terrorists held in Israeli jails. (For those looking to see the glass as half full, PA finance minister Salam Fayad resigned over this issue–which is a truly optimistic development.)
Earlier this month Israel National News reported that President Abbas approved a law providing financial support to the families of “shahids” (martyrs)–including suicide bombers. Abbas’s approval of the law was announced in the pages of the semi-official PA newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida the day of the Netanya bombing. (In addition to the sums indicated in the linked story, the law provides for a lump sum payment of $2,200 to the surviving family of “martyrs.”)
The law would allow the Palestinian Authority to step into the role–recently vacated by Saddam Hussein–of providing financial support to the families of suicide bombers attacking Israel. Asked for comment, a U.S. State Department Near East spokesman noted that Abbas had not signed the law and that the State Department had expressed its concern to Abbas regarding it.
That’s technically true: The law has been passed twice by the PA legislative council. Abbas’s signature and a third approval of the law by the PA legislative council are necessary for final enactment. Perhaps the State Department’s expression of concern will head off its final enactment. Yet that the law that reached President Abbas’s office–and that he appears to have announced his approval of it–seems telling.

The Standard column has links to various news items on which it is based. One of the links is to Charles Krauthammer’s December 2005 column “Progress in the Mideast.” In it Krauthammer declared that “there has been amazing recent progress in defusing the Arab-Israeli dispute.” As the United States doubles down on Abbas this time around, I am unaware of his having taken any action that makes him worthy of our support — with the exception of his having dissolved the coalition government that he himself had formed with Hamas. Andrew McCarthy provides a biting update to my take in light of current events, with more here.
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