Editorial: Abbas’s first obligation

Central to any hope of substantive progress is that our 'partner' delegitimize the hate-mongering against us.

September 19, 2010 04:21
3 minute read.
Clinton, Netanyau and Abbas

Netanyahu Abbas Shake 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

It’s safe to assume that news of phosphorus warheads on rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli noncombatants won’t deprive the international community of its peace of mind. The shock and outcry about the use of phosphorus –outlawed by the Geneva Convention – apply only in the event Israel is accused of employing the substance.

But whether or not phosphorus was intentionally added to the lethal projectiles lobbed at us, there’s no denying a marked escalation of Gazan aggression. The underlying causes are multifaceted and expected. Paradoxically, this becomes a particularly dangerous region precisely when peace talks are under way.

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When Israel and the Palestinian Authority negotiate, in our ruthless, upside-down environment, this catalyzes the Hamas-led Iranian proxy in Gaza to violently spoil the spectacle. The High Holy Days further arouse hostile impulses.

The current upsurge underlines the fact that Gaza is growing increasingly radicalized. This should disquiet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas no less than Israel. He is ostensibly negotiating on behalf of all the PA components – and when he makes his demands of Israel, they come with the inherent expectation that he can keep his side of any bargain. But for so long as Hamas controls Gaza, he plainly can’t. In fact, Hamas will only seek to intensify its violence if negotiations make progress.

IN THIS context we would do well to heed warnings that emanated last week from the 10th annual World Summit on Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya.

Several experts asserted that security arrangements and military prowess are insufficient guarantees of stability as long as the radicalization of a society gives terrorists the stature, esteem and support they crave. Terrorists aren’t fanatic stalwarts who operate in a vacuum, outside societal consensus. They aren’t ostracized or out of sync with the populations from which they arise. Eradicating terrorism first and foremost means depriving terrorists of the grassroots popularity on which they thrive.

Dr. Ariel Merari, of Tel Aviv University’s Center for Political Violence, illustrated this at Herzliya with an anecdotal survey. He interviewed 15 failed suicide bombers now in Israeli prisons. Only three said they wouldn’t change tack if their public altered its positions.

Hence the mind-set of the Palestinian masses is crucial.

And this makes what we are witnessing in Gaza all the more dispiriting. Not only is there no attempt to win hearts for the cause of coexistence, but the opposite is true.

According to another report released in Herzliya, this summer alone 100,000 Gazan youngsters underwent radical indoctrination in Hamas summer camps, replete with paramilitary training. Islamic Jihad similarly indoctrinated another 10,000 children. Moreover, masked Hamas confederates ransacked UNRWA facilities that sported different agendas.

Glorifying the fight against the Jews is no incidental ingredient in this geopolitical brew. What’s inculcated into impressionable minds becomes the premise upon which they later form opinions and make choices. It doesn’t auger well for peace.

WORSE STILL is Abbas’s failure to work energetically to counter such radicalization. Indeed, his PA – via its official media, educational system, mosques and even via the “martyrs” names it sometimes gives to public squares and streets – continues to glorify terrorists as heroes and role-models.

Concomitantly, abuse is heaped upon the Jews.

PATV marked Rosh Hashana by calling Jews praying at the Western Wall “sin and filth,” adding that Jewish claims to any history in this land are false.

Abbas can begin to change this, if not in Gaza then at least in the West Bank. He can ban rank incitement from mosques, and there have been reports of some steps in that direction. He can call his squares and streets after advocates of reform and reconciliation. He can end the fanning of flames in the media directly under his control.

And when condemning terrorist atrocities, he can do more than complain that such “operations” are counterproductive to Palestinian interests.

Israel is not negotiating with rocket-firing Hamas, which remains avowedly committed to our destruction.

It is negotiating in good faith with Abbas, a leader Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has called his “partner.” Central to any hope of substantive progress is that this partner, to use the relevant vernacular, delegitimize the hate-mongering against us.

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