Oct. 15 marked precisely two years since Palestinian terrorists blew up a U.S. diplomatic convoy in Gaza, killing three Americans and injuring one.
In the intervening period, the Palestinian Authority – first under Yasser Arafat, and now with Mahmoud Abbas at the helm – has repeatedly refused to punish the perpetrators, preferring instead to allow those who killed Americans to roam free.
That doesn't seem to bother George W. Bush all that much. Rather than using the second anniversary of the attack to berate the Palestinians for harboring terrorists, Bush chose instead to hand them a diplomatic gift.
In a brief memorandum addressed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he approved a six-month waiver of the 1987 Anti-Terrorism Act, thereby allowing the PLO's offices in America to remain open.
In his memo, Bush wrote, "I hereby determine and certify that it is important to the national security interests of the United States" that PLO offices on United States soil continue to function.
No explanation was offered by Bush as to how precisely it serves national security interests to allow a terrorist organization with American blood on its hands to operate on American territory. Nor did the president feel it necessary to make his issuance of the waiver contingent on any concrete Palestinian steps to crack down on terror groups.
Halfway across the globe, Rice was also busy making nice to the Palestinians. In a press briefing aboard a flight from Moscow, where she had met with senior Russian officials, she made sure to note just how important it is for the United States to assist the P.A. – the very same gang that's providing safe haven to the killers of Americans.
"What we need to do," opined Rice, "is to help Abu Mazen [Abbas' nomme de guerre] create an atmosphere in which calm can be maintained." She said not a word about pressing the Palestinian leader to finally arrest and hand over the perpetrators of the 2003 attack.
And so, on the very same day that families of the three Americans were mourning their loved ones killed two years ago by Palestinian terrorists, all Rice could speak of was the need "to help" the terrorists' chieftain and protector.
To truly appreciate how absurd and offensive the Bush administration's current stance on this issue is, it's worth recalling just how brazen the attack was.
This was not a case of the terrorists hitting the "wrong" target. Reports at the time indicated that the perpetrators used a remote-controlled explosive device, activating it only once the Americans were in range.
The vehicles targeted all had diplomatic license plates, and were traveling on a road that was closed to Israeli traffic, so it was obvious that the attackers knew whom they were hitting – and that it was a methodical and intentional assault.
Moreover, in the weeks leading up to the incident, the Palestinian media was rife with vitriolic anti-American incitement and rhetoric. Just five days prior to the bombing, Palestinian TV broadcast a sermon delivered in Gaza in which the preacher threatened "destruction for the United States."
Lest you think the Palestinians have been doing all they can to track down the killers, here's what the late P.A. military intelligence chief Musa Arafat told Reuters in 2004: "Palestinian security forces know who was behind the killing of three Americans in Gaza nearly a year ago, but cannot act against the factions while fighting with Israel continues."
In the wake of the recent Israeli retreat from Gaza, even this flimsy excuse no longer holds water.
Two years ago, John Branchizio, 37, of Texas; John Linde Jr., 30, of Missouri; and Mark Parsons, 31, of New Jersey, all died in Gaza as a direct result of Palestinian terror. They are among the more than 50 American citizens murdered by Palestinians since the signing of the Oslo accords, and none of their killers have yet to pay for their actions.
In a rousing speech earlier this month, President Bush underlined his determination to fight those who target Americans: "Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response: We will never back down, never give in, and never accept anything less than complete victory."
As he rolled out the red carpet for the Palestinian patron of terror, Mahmoud Abbas, the president's words cannot help but ring a little hollow.
Michael Freund is a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.