Sunday, January 09, 2005

Will the new guy be any better?

Palestinians today elected Mahmoud Abbas as their new president by a wide margin, and many political analysts said his big victory offers hope for lasting peace in the Middle East and a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. CNN and other news outlets have referred to Abbas as a "moderate" who opposes terrorism and wants to achieve an independent Palestinian state through peaceful negotiation instead.

That's why it was troubling to hear Abbas dedicate his victory "to the soul of Yasser Arafat and present it to our people, to our martyrs, and to 11,000 prisoners [in Israel]." The mention of "martyrs" seems like a fairly direct reference to the suicide bombers who have killed thousands of Israelis over the years. As for Arafat, well, I've had my say on him.

I hope Abbas' comments were nothing more than the kind of gracious "thanks to my predecessors" speech that many politicians give upon taking office. It would be unfortunate if they were a signal that Abbas intends to turn a blind eye toward Palestinian terrorism. Peace in the region is impossible unless both Israelis and Palestinians can be sure that the other side is doing everything it can to end the bloodshed.


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