Editorial: A climate for peace

Delegitimizing and de-glorifying terror, indeed, is a prerequisite for coexistence – a necessary step en route to actually fighting terror, as peace partners must.

Abbas speaks Obama looks on (photo credit: Associated Press)
Abbas speaks Obama looks on
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The latest drive-by shootings in Judea and Samaria are no bolt from the blue. They were eminently predictable. Making an effort to restart a peace process in our region – its actual prospects for success notwithstanding – is akin to stirring a mega-hornets’ nest.
Conventional wisdom depicts Mahmoud Abbas’s Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority as beset by extremist elements spearheaded foremost by the Gazabased Hamas.
This postulate resonated consistently in reactions by US President Barack Obama, his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and even Abbas himself to the slaying last week of four Israelis (as well as a nearly full-term unborn baby). They all subscribed to the theory that this was part of a design to derail the peace process.
Abbas, consequently, is viewed almost as much as the victim of the purported extremists as the Israeli civilians who were executed cold-bloodedly at close range.
But is this an accurate picture? It is true that the noholds- barred struggle between Abbas’s Fatah faction and its Hamas rival continues unresolved. Were it not for the Israeli forces deployed in the West Bank, indeed, it is likely that Fatah would have long ago lost its last foothold. The PA security forces, trained under US supervision, have brought a rare sense of law and order to the Palestinian cities, but only the IDF’s presence – as Abbas knows full well – deters Hamas from attempting to replicate, in the West Bank, its violent 2007 takeover of Gaza.
Unfortunately, the complex reality doesn’t end there.
In a climate in which Israel is routinely delegitimized and demonized, any new Hamas offensive, bitter experience suggests, tends to “oblige” Fatah’s own Al-Aksa Brigades and their like to prove that they can spill no less Jewish blood. The concern now is that competition will be renewed for the “glory” of who can inflict more pain on Israel.
ABBAS, WHO on Wednesday at the White House spoke hearteningly of his desire to prevent any more blood being spilled on either side of our conflict, may be far better intentioned than his malevolent predecessor Yasser Arafat. But he, too, has failed to stem the tide of anti- Israel incitement, and he, too, continues to preside over Fatah gatherings where unchanging opposition to the very fact of Israel’s existence is the central theme.
And thus, the simplistic depiction of Abbas and his Fatah stalwarts trying to stand firm in a bid to stem the terrorist tide is unfortunately inaccurate. So too the notion that terrorist acts are perpetrated by fanatics far outside the PA consensus and devoid of even minimal support within the Palestinian public.
This misrepresentation unhelpfully belittles the complexities of peacemaking, and creates a skewed image of terrorists who are as out-of-sync with average Palestinians as isolated Jewish extremists are out-of-sync with average Israelis. Mainstream Israeli society sincerely rejects extremist violence, which is consequently relatively rare. Palestinian terrorists are not similarly ostracized – and Abbas is at least partly responsible for that.
Whether he has been disinclined to counter the phenomenon, or felt himself too weak to do so, terrorists past and present are revered and feted under his aegis.
Examples abound. The Ramallah street that houses the new presidential compound was named for arch-terrorist Yihye Ayash, who gained notoriety in the mid-1990s as the “engineer.”
His professional specialty was rigging explosives designed to take as many lives as possible. Primarily, Ayash was an anti-Oslo saboteur, a fact that makes it doubly troubling that the PA, born of the Oslo Accords, would even consider commemorating Ayash in what constitutes an affront to the very notion of coexistence and a gross violation of the Oslo premise.
The glorification of “heroic” terrorists, “martyred” in the cause of murdering Israelis, is manifest in the streets named after them, the honors bestowed upon them, the school hours devoted to them, the television broadcasts that laud them, and the agitation to release even the convicted mass-murderers among them. Any and all of this inherently contradict the aims of a peace process.
Delegitimizing and de-glorifying terror, indeed, is a prerequisite for coexistence – a necessary step en route to actually fighting terror, as peace partners must.
The ostensibly shared objective of Abbas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, for our two peoples to live “as neighbors and partners forever,” to quote Abbas, is simply irreconcilable with a climate in which Palestinians are taught, from the cradle, to venerate the slaughter of Israelis. Change that climate, and our yearned-for peace becomes a realistic prospect.