In its coverage of the interviews given to Newsweek magazine this week by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Abu Mazen, the media – as usual – focused on the unimportant while ignoring the real story.
There was a great deal of fanfare about the fact that both Sharon and Abu Mazen said they would be willing to meet each other, with foreign and local media outlets trumpeting this as some sort of potential breakthrough.
And yet, if you take even a casual look at the text of the two interviews, you will quickly see that both men speak laconically, and without a great deal of commitment, about the possibility of a meeting, which in any event would only take place some time after the Palestinian elections in January.
Moreover, it is not as if the two have not met before, as Sharon himself points out in his remarks, so the fuss being made over this seems to be driven more by the media’s desire to encourage the peace process rather than to objectively report the facts (which is, of course, what it is supposed to be doing).
But amid all the headlines, what the media did not point out was perhaps the most revealing statement of all – Abu Mazen’s brief description of how he plans to deal with terror groups such as Hamas:
“We fought Hamas in 1996. Now things have changed. We have to deal with them delicately. We have to ask them to stop everything—to have law and order.”
Firstly, the prospective Palestinian president is playing fast and loose with the truth in suggesting that the Palestinian Authority “fought” Hamas in 1996 – it was, after all, the wave of Hamas suicide bombings in February-March of that year, and the PA’s failure to crack down, that helped unseat Shimon Peres in the '96 elections.
More importantly, however, is that Abu Mazen now speaks as if Hamas is little more than a mischievous child caught talking during the middle of class, rather than a ruthless bunch of terrorists. Note the language which he uses: “we have to deal with them delicately” (wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings, after all) and “we have to ask them to stop” (don’t forget to smile and say please…).
What this shows, rather clearly, is that Abu Mazen has no intention of combating terror, or of taking the steps necessary to eliminate attacks against Israel. These, of course, would include measures such as outlawing militant organizations, shutting down terrorist training camps and recruitment centers, cutting off the flow of funds to terrorists and disarming and disbanding militant cells and groups.
So don’t expect too much from the upcoming Palestinian balloting – other than a lot more smoke from the media. Abu Mazen is not the Messiah which reporters and others would like us to believe.