In 2002, Olmert called for Dahlan's assassination. Now, he calls him an "old favorite." What a difference five years can make.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with senior Palestinian officials, including Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan, whom the premier affectionately referred to as an "old favorite Fatah minister". Sounds like a nice little reunion of two old chums, no?
In 2002, Olmert called for Dahlan's assassination. Now, he calls him an 'old favorite.'
And yet, it was just a few years ago that Mr. Olmert was sounding a very different tune about his "old favorite Fatah minister." (hat tip: Nitsana) In a June 3, 2002 opinion piece he wrote for the Wall Street Journal, Olmert – at the time mayor of Jerusalem - said that Israel could not do business with a man such as Dahlan, and even called for Dahlan's assassination because of his involvement in organizing a bomb attack on an Israeli schoolbus.
Here’s what Olmert had to say back then in the Wall Street Journal:
Ahhhhh, if only Mr. Olmert would go back and re-read those forceful words that he once wrote. It seems like it was ages ago…..
Mr. Dahlan is the man who has presided over an ever-fortified terrorist network. Gaza, the home to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, became a base for some of the most heinous terrorist attacks unleashed against Israel.
On his watch, Mr. Dahlan permitted Gaza to become a safe haven for the hundreds of fugitive terrorists fleeing Israeli forces. Among those being sheltered is his childhood friend Mohammed Dief, a leading Hamas mastermind with the blood of scores of Israelis on his hands. In the meantime, Mr. Dahlan's district became the primary launching grounds for the hundreds of Kassem missiles fired at Israel.
Mr. Dahlan's involvement in terrorism has not been confined to mere nonfeasance but, rather, gross malfeasance as well. Mr. Dahlan, along with his assistant Rashid Abu-Shabak, are the primary suspects in the terror attack on an Israeli school bus in Kfar Darom in November 2000. The bombing of the bus left half a dozen children maimed, and seriously injured an American citizen, Rachel Asaroff. In response to this brutal terror attack on Jewish school children, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak dispatched Israeli planes to strafe Mr. Dahlan's Gaza headquarters.
In Israel, we are frequently lectured that we must do business with the unsavoury assortment of dictators, strongmen and criminals that surround us. This, we are told, is the nature of the neighbourhood we live in. As mayor of Jerusalem, I have in my public duties the unfortunate experience of sitting down with many individuals I do not necessarily like. But the current thinking that Mr. Dahlan can bring reform and law enforcement to the Palestinians is totally misguided. No democratic state should ever allow itself to do business with those individuals who deliberately target a school bus.
While the State Department and envoy Burns are to be admired for their determination to forge a peace agreement on Israel's behalf, their zealousness is beginning to chafe. Seeking a "regional conference at all costs," and hanging hopes on a reorganised Palestinian security force under the sole leadership of one who has himself been involved in serious terrorist attacks sends an unacceptable message. Criminals such as Mr. Dahlan and Arafat can never be reformed; they must be eradicated by force.