Last night, at the precise moment that a bomb tore apart the bus en route from the Old City of Jerusalem, PA Prime Minister Abu Mazen was meeting with the heads of the Islamic Jihad the same Islamic Jihad that claimed direct responsibility for that very bus bombing.
Abu Mazen's spokespeople were open and candid about what
took place in the meeting.
And yet the rationale for dealing with Abu Mazen was that his security forces would crush Islamic terror organizations.
Almost ten years ago, when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands with Yasser Arafat and Abu Mazen on the White House lawn, most people in Israel and abroad expected that Arafat and Abu Mazen would form a new Arab entity to restrain the violent Moslem movements known as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
That was the rationale behind what later became known as the Oslo Peace Process, wherein Israel was expected to cede land for a new Palestinian Arab entity, while Arafat's PLO was expected to fight Islamic terror groups that continued to threaten the lives of Jews in Israel.
Yet, from day one, the opposite occurred: instead of cracking down on Hamas, the PA created an alliance with them.
Indeed, when I covered the Nobel Peace Prize news conference in Oslo in December, 1994, Israeli leaders Rabin and Peres conducted a press conference to state emphatically that their reason for making a peace deal with Arafat and Abu Mazen was that they had received a solid commitment from them to "crush the Hamas."
I waited for Arafat and Abu Mazen for their press conference. I asked them if they would indeed fill the expectations of Rabin and Peres to "crush the Hamas."
Arafat and Abu Mazen were surprised by the question. Arafat laughed. Abu Mazen smirked.
Arafat's answer was clear and precise: "The Hamas are my brothers. I will handle them in my own way."
Arafat said that in front of more than 2,000 reporters who were transmitting news reports to hundreds of journalists. Not one of whom reported what Arafat said or how Arafat laughed at the very thought that he should be expected to "crush" terrorists.
And only three weeks after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, when the PLO celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in January 1995, Arafat delivered a series of lectures to his own people in Gaza and Jericho, praising suicide bombers and refusing to condemn the spate of Hamas terror attacks.
These attacks had taken place at the time Arafat's speeches
of praise for Hamas were televised by the new Palestinian TV network,
the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, which is owned, controlled and
operated by the Palestinian Authority and administered by Abu Mazen.
The Palestinian Authority's strategy was best summed up by then U.S. Ambassador to Israel and presidential confidante Martin Indyk, who told the Los Angeles Times on March 2, 1996, that the PA had decided to co-opt, rather than to fight, Hamas. Soon, the PA's co-option manifest itself in deeds.
On May 9, 1995, I dispatched a Palestinian journalist to cover the Gaza press conference held by the PA Gaza police chief Ghazzi Jabali, in which the representatives the of the Palestine Authority officially announced that they would license weapons for the Hamas this, only one month after Hamas had carried out an attack on an Israeli civilian bus near Gaza, killing six young Israelis and one American student (Aliza Flatow, R.I.P.).
At Jabali's packed press conference, carried live on PBC radio, Jabali announced that Hamas leaders such as Dr. Muhammed Zahar who was present at the meeting would be "encouraged" to own weapons under the protection of the Palestine Authority.
On the same day, our Palestinian TV crew filmed an armed Zahar addressing an angry mob in Gaza. Zahar's speech called for the bloody overthrow of the State of Israel, as he stood in front of a skull and crossbones imposed on a map of Israel.
However, PA police chief Jabali would later assure the Associated Press on May 14, 1995, that he was expecting Hamas and Islamic Jihad to keep their licensed weapons "at home."
In late October 1995, shortly before Rabin's assassination, I asked Rabin at a public forum about the PA decision to provide weapons to Hamas. Rabin acknowledged that this practice existed and quipped, dead-pan, "Maybe they're for peace, too."
In other words, for the past eight years both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have operated with weapons licensed by the PA.
Any call for the PA to remove illegal weapons would not include the weapons issued to the Islamic terror groups by the Palestinian Authority
All levels of Abu Mazen's security forces acknowledge that they have recruited radical Islamics to join forces with them.
The formal PA alliance with Hamas was exposed and hardly noticed when the semi-official Egyptian newspaper Al Aharam broke the story of the formal PLO-Hamas accord between the two organizations on December 15, 1995, in Cairo. As a direct result of that deal, the all important PA communications ministry was offered to Hamas leader Imad Falluci.
That accord allowed Hamas to conduct attacks in areas of "Palestine" that "had not yet been liberated." PLO General Secretary Marwan Barghouti, justifying a Hamas attack at a bus stop on the outskirts of Netanya, explained that the PLO could not condemn such an act since that territory was "not yet liberated" by the PLO.
And on each occasion when the PA was asked to "crack down" on these Islamic groups that took credit for fatal terror bombs against Israel, the PA instead ordered mass roundups which only resulted in mass confessions followed by mass release of prisoners.
In 37 documented instances between 1994 and 2000, the Palestine Authority offered asylum to Hamas and Islamic Jihad members who murdered Israelis and took refuge in the new safe havens of Palestinian Arab cities that were protected by the PA security services.
Under pressure from Israel and Western countries, Arafat eventually did arrest 22 Hamas members who had been involved in bus bombings throughout Israel between 1994 and 1996 - all of whom were released when the current war broke out in September 2000.
A case in point: Muhammad Deif roams Gaza freely, fully armed and at liberty. Deif is the admitted Hamas mastermind of the October 1994, kidnapping and killing of Nachshon Wachsman, the 19-year-old American Israeli. When I asked the commander of the Palestine Liberation Army about Deif, he told me that he was under direct orders from Yasser Arafat not to touch Deif.
This,despite the fact that U.S. President Bill Clinton declared at Nachshon Wachsman's grave in March 1996, that Israel should not continue any negotiating process with the Palestine Authority until and unless the PA hands over Deif to stand trial.
Many close followers of the Middle East situation wrongly assume that the two entities - the PLO and Hamas are in conflict, when in fact they closely coordinate every move under the administrative framework of the Palestinian National Authority, the Palestinian state-in-the-making.
Meanwhile, our news agency has obtained a copy of the PNA-approved Constitution of the new Palestinian state, jointly agreed upon by the PLO and Hamas.
That document, whose cover page thanks UNESCO and the Italian government for funding its law committee, declares that Islam will be the state religion of Palestine, that its borders will encompass all of Palestine not just the West Bank and Gaza and that no other religion will have any status in the future Palestinian state.
And where did we obtain from the PA State Constitution?
Not from Israeli intelligence.
In other words, the Hamas/Islamic jihad ideology will become the philosophy of the Palestinian State in the making.
An unwritten rule exists in the media even in the Israeli press to downplay the undeniable evidence of a PLO-Islamic alliance and their confluence of objectives. This is a denial of the cruel reality on the ground. They are in fact one entity with a single aim: the annihilation of the Jewish state in the Middle East.
I cannot forget Arafat's laugh or Abu Mazen's smirk in Oslo.
Gerardo Joffe, President