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Dear Mr. Netanyahu,

I admit that I did not hold my breath in anticipation of your speech. I heard that your first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, said it is not important what the gentiles say - what is important is what the Jews do.

Since I stood on the White House lawn next to Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton, 15 years have passed, and you have had eight prime ministers. Each one, including you, Sir, during your first term, "extended a hand of peace," and promised "a new horizon." But what remains from those festive speeches at the signing ceremony for Oslo "B" and at the Wye Plantation? What has changed since you sort of adopted the road map? And what did we get out of the Annapolis declaration?

No one knows better than you what happened since we signed the Oslo Accords, where we totally relinquished the vision of a whole Palestine in favor of a Palestinian state covering 22 percent of the territories. Just to be on the safe side, I will remind you that according to the data of your Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of settlers in the West Bank has exploded from 110,000 at that time to approximately 300,000. In Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem there are an additional 80,000 residents, so their numbers just about reach 200,000 at present. With this sort of "natural growth," there could have been a majority long ago in the area between the Jordan River and the sea.

Seriously, if you were a Palestinian and the land of your forefathers was transformed into what you yourselves describe as "unauthorized outposts," would you give your support to someone like me, who is openly opposed to the intifada and who threw in his lot in favor of negotiations with you? You like to talk about terrorism versus "the economy of peace." But what have you done to show the Palestinians that terrorism and the Qassams are of no benefit? How many work permits have you granted to the miserable souls living on handouts? The siege of the Gaza Strip is also not helping moderates in the Palestinian camp.

I appreciate your commitment to the road map very much. You must have noticed that in its title, it states that it is "a performance-based road map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Maybe this will help us convince Hamas to make a similar commitment. They are under quite a bit of pressure thanks to President Obama's speech and have already announced that they support a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. When we suggest that they say "next to the State of Israel," they ask: Why won't the Israelis first recognize a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders? If we do not move forward from this point, finally, on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative - the greatest gift to your nation since the Balfour Declaration - we will all certainly witness a Hamastan spreading to the West Bank, too.

Therefore, time for talk is over and it is now time for action. The performance in the road map is based on the principle of reciprocity. It is cut out perfectly according to the way you see things. As a first stage (which was sadly supposed to have been completed in May 2003), we were asked to issue a declaration emphasizing Israel's right to exist in peace and security; it calls for an end to violence and to incitement against Israelis. By the way, there is not a single word there about a "Jewish state." You, the Israelis, were supposed to issue an unequivocal declaration, recognizing "an independent, viable and sovereign Palestinian state, which would exist in peace and security alongside Israel, [and call for] an end to violence against Palestinians."

At every occasion we reiterate our commitment to every word of the road map and make efforts to fulfill our commitment. Since your foreign minister claims that destroying the terrorist infrastructure is a precondition to negotiations, I feel I should remind you that the road map demands that we only "undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere." To undertake - not to eradicate.

Why don't you ask your officers and U.S. General Keith Dayton what they say about our performance against Hamas in the West Bank? Ask Ehud Barak what he is doing to advance your commitment to remove the outposts and to freeze settlements. Even Ariel Sharon did not dare include this bluff about "natural growth" in the list of reservations he had about the road map.

Finally, allow me to give you a friendly tip: During my recent visit to the White House, I discovered that something substantive has changed in Washington: Since Obama replaced George W. Bush it has become much more important what the gentiles do than what the Jews say.

Sincerely,

Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen)