For the sake of the Middle East and its future, let's take a moment and engage in a brief intellectual exercise.
Put aside any ideological or political feelings you might have about the US-backed plan to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Forget temporarily your personal views regarding Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen), or even US President George W. Bush. Instead, let's focus on a simple question:
Are the Palestinians living up to their commitments as laid down in the road map?
On June 4, at the Aqaba summit, Abbas stood before the television cameras and said, "A new opportunity for peace exists, an opportunity based upon President Bush's vision and the Quartet's road map, which we have accepted without any reservations."
Thus with Bush, Sharon, and King Abdullah of Jordan at his side, the Palestinian leader formally undertook to abide by the road map and its obligations.
Among other things, the road map explicitly requires that "the Palestinians immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence." A look at the record, however, reveals that since Aqaba, rather than putting a halt to terror, the Palestinians have accelerated it.
According to statistics compiled by the IDF, there were 142 Palestinian terror attacks in the 10 days prior to the Aqaba summit. But in the 10 days immediately following it, there were 154 an increase of almost 10%.
These included shootings, stabbings, bombings, rocket attacks against Jewish communities, and the detonation of explosive devices against civilian vehicles.
Moreover, in the 10-day period before Aqaba no Israelis were killed by Palestinian terror, whereas in the corresponding period after Aqaba, 28 Israelis lost their lives.
Hence, in terms of both quantity of terror as well as its lethality, the Palestinians have clearly failed to live up to their road map obligation.
The second key Palestinian commitment under the road map involves putting a stop to anti-Israel incitement. The document requires that "all official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel in the Palestinian media."
Accordingly, Abu Mazen offered the following pledge at Aqaba: "We will also act vigorously against incitement and violence and hatred, whatever their form or forum may be. We will take measures to ensure that there is no incitement from Palestinian institutions."
Those were pretty strong words. For the first time in recent memory, a Palestinian leader was speaking out unequivocally against incitement to violence against the Jewish state.
But have those words been backed up by action?
Two days after the summit, on June 6, the official Palestinian Authority radio, under Abu Mazen's control, broadcast its regular series of Friday sermons. In the first homily the preacher chose to heap praise on the Palestinian "resistance," known to the rest of the world as the terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, saying, "We salute our political parties and resistance factions, which call for unity."
The second preacher decided to denounce the establishment of the State of Israel, calling it a "disaster" and a "catastrophe."
A week later, on June 13, the rhetoric grew even harsher, when Abu Mazen's official TV and radio broadcast a sermon from the Sheikh Ijlin mosque in Gaza, in which the preacher said, "O Allah, punish our enemies. O Allah, destroy the Jews and their supporters. O Allah, destroy the United States and its allies."
Hence it is clear that the Palestinians are not living up to the anti-incitement requirements of the road map either. Not only has Abu Mazen failed to stop such incitement, the media organs under his direct control have continued to engage in it.
Finally, the road map also requires the Palestinians to take a series of tough steps against terrorist groups. These include a requirement to "commence confiscation of illegal weapons," dismantle "terrorist capabilities and infrastructure," and undertake "visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere."
Nevertheless, no such steps have been taken by the Palestinian Authority. Instead, Abu Mazen has been negotiating with the terrorist groups and has publicly vowed that he will not use force against them.
In the two weeks since Aqaba the Palestinians have not arrested any terrorist leaders nor confiscated any illegal weapons. The terrorist groups' infrastructure remains intact, and they now know they have no reason to fear a crackdown.
Thus, on all three counts ending anti-Israel violence, stopping incitement, and clamping down on terror groups the Palestinians have failed to deliver the goods. In baseball terms, Abu Mazen is batting a solid zero, striking out on all counts.
THERE ARE plenty of observers out there ready to offer excuses, trying to justify the Palestinians' breach of their commitments. They cite the ongoing rivalry between Abu Mazen and Yasser Arafat, the state of various Palestinian institutions, as well as the relatively short time that has elapsed since the summit.
But these are excuses, nothing more. The fact is that Abu Mazen and the PA voluntarily took upon themselves various obligations and have violated every one of them. Hence they have no one but themselves to blame for their failure to keep their word.
And so, when you put aside all the emotions the Middle East conflict arouses and examine just the facts, the conclusion is clear: The Palestinians cannot be relied upon to abide by their commitments, and they cannot be entrusted with a state.
Time and again, for nearly a decade, they have signed agreements only to violate them systematically and repeatedly. If this is the case at the outset of the road map, when the Palestinians still have so much to gain, what will happen at its conclusion, when they achieve statehood and have nothing to lose?
The facts, as they say, speak for themselves.The writer served as deputy director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister's Office.
©2003 - Jerusalem Post