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Beside the Point

By Michael Freund
1/23/2005, 12:00 AM

The sharp drop in Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza over the past few days since the deployment of Palestinian policemen in the northern part of the strip proves three key points:

Palestinian_rocket_1 1) Palestinian responsibility for terror - If the Palestinian Authority (PA) wants to prevent attacks against Israel, it can do so. In just a matter of a few days, the PA was able to clamp down – which once again underlines the Palestinian leadership’s direct responsibility for all the violence that has occurred until now. Had they wished to, they could have stopped it at any time.

2) Watch out for Abu Mazen - Newly-elected Palestinian chairman Abu Mazen is much smarter (and therefore much more dangerous) than his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. Whereas Arafat would typically have taken only a few limited measures before making utterly ridiculous demands of Israel, Abu Mazen has gone one step further. He has created a terrific Palestinian photo-op – that of armed Palestinian policemen on patrol, ostensibly to prevent mortar attacks on Israel. He’ll give Israel a couple of days of quiet – and then will undoubtedly ask for some “gestures” or “concessions” to bring back to “his people”. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, of course, will be hard-pressed not to give in.

3) All this is beside the point – The fact is that even if Abu Mazen does succeed in bringing about a week or two of quiet on the Gaza front, this is beside the point. The main issue remains that the terrorist groups such as Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad, all have the manpower and infrastructure in place to resume anti-Israel attacks at any time. Their agreement to a temporary cease-fire is tactical, not strategic – as far as they are concerned, this is little more than a chance to take a few days off and recoup before going back out to wage war on the Jewish state. The only way for Israel to ensure that the threat of rocket attacks from Gaza is eliminated once and for all is to eliminate the terrorists who pose the threat. Anything less is just biding for time, and nothing more.