The Wrong Message

The fallout from last month's visit of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is still being sorted out in Jerusalem and Washington.

Abbas had good reason to be satisfied with the visit. But as time passes and events overtake the assumptions that motivated his actions, does President Bush feel the same way?

Bush, who anointed the former aide to archterrorist and corrupt autocrat Yasser Arafat as a symbol of democracy, must now eat those words because Abbas quickly canceled scheduled elections for his parliament soon after returning home. That he did so to avoid the very real possibility of defeat at the hands of terrorist Hamas does not lessen Bush's embarrassment.

The president should also still be blushing from his comments about a final peace settlement, which gave the impression that the United States was supportive of Palestinian demands for a return to the "1949 armistice lines." That contradicts previous Bush statements that called on the Palestinians to understand that it was not realistic to expect that all Jewish communities built over the green line since 1967 would be destroyed. Unfortunately, further clarifications are likely to muddy the waters even further.

Washington is also having a difficult time swallowing Abbas' refusal to deal decisively with Hamas. While the administration is, for the moment, sticking with its principled refusal to recognize Hamas as a legitimate political force, Bush's acceptance of Abbas' stance on these terrorists undermines the principles upon which this country has conducted the war on terror.

Abbas' talk notwithstanding, Palestinian violence and official incitement of hatred against Israel continue as wholeheartedly as ever. Americans who look to our president for leadership on this issue have a right to expect more from him than what he's shown us in the last few weeks.


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