Tell Abbas to stop educating for war

Abbas cannot make peace when he is readying his people for war.

Abbas UN 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Abbas UN 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
In his meeting today with Mahmoud Abbas, President George Bush will likely urge the Palestinian Authority president to implement his responsibilities under the road map, such as eliminating the infrastructure of terrorism. Abbas will claim that he is doing the best he can, and respond by demanding that Israel dismantle outposts and freeze settlements. And nothing will change. This sort of pointless, circular maneuvering has, at best, continued for the past 14 years, since the signing of the Oslo principles in 1993. At worst it has degenerated into terrorism and war. While Israel rejects the legitimacy of the Palestinian claim that "the settlements made me do it," in 2005 Israel attempted to remove this excuse by withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and dismantling all the settlements there, along with a few settlements in Samaria. The result was not more Palestinian compliance but less - more terror and radicalism from precisely the area Israel had left. So let's say for the moment that Israel decided to dismantle outposts and stopped lifting a single brick over the Green Line. Does anyone seriously believe that Abbas would suddenly crush the terrorist gangs roaming the West Bank, crack down on corruption, institute the rule of law, and start building a peaceful Palestinian state? This is not a credible prospect at this moment, and not just because Hamas is already in control of Gaza and poised to take over the West Bank too if the IDF stopped operating there. The main obstacle to progress is even more fundamental, but something that Abbas can control and chooses not to - in part because he is never asked. In the ostensible dichotomy between Hamas and Fatah, the former is against the two-state solution and the latter is busy trying to bring it about. And since Fatah supposedly understands that it cannot have a state without making peace with Israel, one might presume that Abbas would be busy preparing his people for the Palestinian version of the "tough concessions" that Israeli leaders often talk about it. Yet not only are such preparations absent, but Abbas's PA also continues to do the exact opposite: encouraging hatred, violence, terrorism, and rejection of Israel's right to exist. Yesterday, Bush said the first thing he would ask Abbas is "what are you going to do about the rockets" that are being fired from Gaza into Israel. As much we appreciate this question, a more salient one might be: "Why is your television glorifying suicide bombers?" Just last month, PA television, which Abbas brought under his personal authority when he took office, started rebroadcasting a video that ran dozens of times at the height of the suicide bombing campaign against Israel. The video begins with an imagined scene of a woman shot dead in the back by Israeli soldiers. She then rises to an Islamic paradise to join the "72 virgins" who await any suicide bomber. Next a young man swears to avenge the woman, is also killed by Israelis, and is seen joining this group of young women for his eternal reward. This is education for anything but peace. Then there are the dozens of schools named after suicide bombers. There are the recent textbooks that teach that Palestine was stolen by "Zionist gangs" and deny any Jewish connection to the land. There are the official PA maps and emblems that depict Palestine not as the West Bank and Gaza, but all of Israel as well. No one expects Abbas to start teaching his people to be good Zionists. But he cannot make peace when he is readying them for war. On the contrary, just as it took Israelis years to reverse the inculcated rejection of a Palestinian state, it will take Palestinians years to reverse their rejection of the rights and history of a Jewish state. It is a long process, but for a peace agreement to happen, it must be not only begun, but fast-tracked. Accordingly, the most important thing Bush can do in Ramallah is to say to the Palestinians that if they want a state they must stop spewing hatred and glorifying terrorism. Rather than constantly using the "right of return" as code for Israel's destruction, Abbas must tell his people the truth: a Palestinian state requires giving up the dream of Greater Palestine, making peace with the Jewish democracy of Israel, and building a state alongside it in most of the West Bank and Gaza.