Commentary Magazine


Topic: Arafat

Too Much Too Soon

With Gaza lost to Hamas and Arafat’s discredited legacy increasingly becoming a burden, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has been having a difficult time keeping his political credibility intact. Much of the burden of helping him sell himself as a statesman has fallen, as usual, on Israel. But, given Israel’s past experiences, caution would be well-advised.

It strikes me as precipitous that, on the eve of a routine meeting between Ehud Olmert and Abbas, Israel has agreed not only to release Palestinian prisoners, but also to grant immunity to 178 Palestinian fugitives. Israel has also given permission to Nawaf Hawatmeh, of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), to attend a PLO meeting in Ramallah. Hawatmeh, you may remember, ordered the slaughter of 22 Israeli schoolchildren in the town of Maalot in 1974.

Perhaps Abbas’s predicament and Israel’s concomitant problems are even worse than they seem. But no matter how desperate the times, a measure this desperate—a grant of amnesty to terrorists still at large—is excessive.

With Gaza lost to Hamas and Arafat’s discredited legacy increasingly becoming a burden, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has been having a difficult time keeping his political credibility intact. Much of the burden of helping him sell himself as a statesman has fallen, as usual, on Israel. But, given Israel’s past experiences, caution would be well-advised.

It strikes me as precipitous that, on the eve of a routine meeting between Ehud Olmert and Abbas, Israel has agreed not only to release Palestinian prisoners, but also to grant immunity to 178 Palestinian fugitives. Israel has also given permission to Nawaf Hawatmeh, of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), to attend a PLO meeting in Ramallah. Hawatmeh, you may remember, ordered the slaughter of 22 Israeli schoolchildren in the town of Maalot in 1974.

Perhaps Abbas’s predicament and Israel’s concomitant problems are even worse than they seem. But no matter how desperate the times, a measure this desperate—a grant of amnesty to terrorists still at large—is excessive.

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