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Media Analyses

USA Today's “Tit-for-Tat” Editorial

USA Today's August 21 editorial “Nurture peace hopes” completely misrepresents current Israeli-Palestinian realities. For example:

1) The editorial claims that “both Israeli and Palestinian leaders are captives of fanatical extremists. Even before Tuesday's gruesome attack, reports out of Israel indicated right-wing Israelis planned to torpedo peace concessions by their government.”

In reality, in the days before a Palestinian Arab terrorist murdered 20 people on a Jerusalem bus and wounded another 100, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his government:

*Released hundreds of Palestinian prisoners;

*Agreed to hand over two more West Bank cities to Palestinian security forces and prepared to turn over two other cities; and

*Gave the Palestinian Authority's prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, more time to persuade Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), Palestine Islamic Jihad, and the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade to halt terrorism — instead of dismantling these groups as Abbas is required to do under the U.S.-backed diplomatic “road map.”

2) The decision of three New York Democratic congressmen, Eliot Engel, Gregory Meeks, and Anthony Weiner to cancel a planned meeting with Abbas “because they said he hasn't done enough to crack down on terrorism” was criticized as “knee-jerk reactions.”

Virtually everyone interested in a compromise peace has criticized Abbas for not cracking down on Palestinian terrorism. Abbas committed himself and the PA to do just that in accepting the “road map” and in meetings with Sharon and President George Bush earlier this summer. But since then, until the August 20 bombing, Abbas and his security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, publicly declared they would not disarm and dismantle the terrorist organizations. In recent days the list of those asserting the ball is in Abbas' court includes the White House and Clinton administration chief Middle East envoy Ambassador Dennis Ross.

3) USA Today acknowledges reality in the first half of a sentence, writing “even before Tuesday, Abbas had yet to dismantle the militant Palestinian groups behind the attacks,” then fudges it by adding that “Sharon had not begun to withdrawn troops from occupied Palestinian towns.”

As noted above, Sharon was preparing to do just that  but the terrorists Abbas refused to suppress intervened.

4) The editorial asserts that — Abbas and Sharon deserve all the support they can get for making tough concessions.”

Sharon was making concessions — the prisoner release, for example, is not mentioned in the road map.

No one is asking Abbas for “concessions.” Rather, they are insisting that the Palestinians live up to their obligations.

5) USA Today concludes with a reference to “the cycle of tit-for-tat bloodshed that extremists prefer,” again implying equivalent extremists on both sides.

The vast majority of Israelis have demonstrated repeatedly, in public opinion polls and in elections, that they prefer a compromise peace with the Palestinian Arabs that would permit both sides to live in peace. There are no significant Israeli extremist groups exerting any significant counter-pressure.

In a recent poll, 60 percent of Palestinian respondents supported continued terrorism against Israel. Hamas and the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade — of Abbas and Yasser Arafat's own Fatah movement — mobilize wide public support.

There is no Israeli-Palestinian “cycle of tit-for-tat bloodshed.” Israel has attempted to negotiate peace since the Oslo accords of 1993, and proposed a Palestinian Arab state on more than 95 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2000. The Palestinians instead opted for a “shoot-talk-shoot" strategy, and intensified their terror attacks in 2000 after rejecting statehood in exchange for peace. Israeli counter-terrorism is no more part of a “cycle of bloodshed” than police arresting murderers is part of a “cycle of crime.”

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