The Washington Post’s editorial "Bad Start in Gaza" (September 15) deserves to be read and praised. This is noteworthy since it represents a break with Post editorials and commentaries through the preceding two months (see, for example, CAMERA’s August 29 Washington Post-Watch, critiquing the editorial "Mr. Sharon’s Resolve" [August 18]).
"A Bad Start in Gaza" stresses, in an accurate, timely way, that:
* "Only days after the final withdrawal of Israeli forces, the Gaza Strip is on the verge of anarchy. Despite promises to impose law and order, the Palestinian Authority has allowed mobs of looters and armed extremists to rampage …".
* "Despite a formal agreement with Israel to maintain security, Egypt has allowed thousands of Palestinians to illegally cross its border, including rifle-brandishing militants."
* "If it is not quickly checked, the disorder will destroy Palestinian hopes that the Gaza transfer will become a step toward statehood."
* "This week’s events further undermine the claim of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he can impose democratic rule of law in Gaza without directly confronting armed extremists groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad."
* Israel still has "legitimate security concerns" regarding the Gaza Strip, including maintenance of internal order by the PA and proper control of the frontier by Palestinian, Egyptian and Israel forces.
* "Unless Palestinian and Egyptian leaders take immediate steps to fulfill their commitments in Gaza, they will bear the responsibility for a new stalemate – or worse – in the Middle East."
Departing from its pattern of transferring the responsibility for successful Palestinian governance in Gaza to Israel, the Postfinally addresses the ability and/or willingness of Abbas and the PA, and the Egyptians, to fulfill their obligations.
Yes, the editorial does worry that "In Israel, continuing disorder [in the Gaza Strip] will give a boost to hard-line challengers to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the architect of the Gaza evacuation." And it notes that "Sharon probably will reiterate … that Israel will consider no more territorial withdrawals or other concessions to the Palestinians until militant groups are dismantled." The Post column does not dismiss the position it expects Sharon to take,.even while it specifies PA and Egyptian failures.
And though the editorial continues to blindly insist on labeling Palestinian terrorists as militants, it makes a small concession to reality, also terming terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad "armed extremists groups."
In some ways, "Bad Start in Gaza" is a tacit correction of "Mr. Sharon’s Resolve." The Post should be commended on the improvement.