Ariel Sharon's display of anger at Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) after the suicide bombing at the Karni crossing shows that Israel has chosen to return to the relationship model that was unsuccessfully tried with Yasser Arafat, instead of taking a different path.
If there is no sign that Abu Mazen is encouraging terror, if he means what he says, if he did not know about the attack planned a long time before it was carried out, it may be expected that the government of Israel will give him time and support so that he can work toward a total cease-fire. Demanding that he control Hamas and the other organizations one week after his election, even before being sworn in, by waging all-out war instead of reaching an agreement among the various Palestinian factions, abrogates from the outset Abu Mazen's chance of succeeding in his chosen path.
That does not mean Israel must come to terms for any length of time with the firing of Qassam rockets and mortars and with suicide attacks that take the lives of its citizens and soldiers. The attack at the Karni crossing showed once again that the victims of violence on both sides are almost always unfortunate hostages, people with no connection to terror, who were only trying to make a living that requires them to work in a dangerous place.
Those hostages on both sides will pay the price of retaliation, as well, and of the retaliation for the retaliation, which once again will strike the Palestinian residents of Gaza and the residents of Sderot.
Six mortars were fired at settlements in the Gaza Strip yesterday. A 7-year-old boy was injured in Netzarim. In Sderot, a young woman was critically injured by a Qassam rocket. Sources on the other side reported four Palestinians killed in Israel Defense Forces operations south of Gaza, and two Palestinians killed by a tank shell fired near the Rafah crossing.
Abu Mazen, who was sworn in yesterday, plans to go to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Together with Egypt, he will try to advance an agreement for stopping terror emanating from his camp, using nonviolent means. He has once again declared that he will not take up arms against his domestic adversaries and that he should be allowed to make headway in his own way.
Israel will gain nothing from a Palestinian civil war - and will certainly gain nothing from the failure of Abu Mazen, whom everyone believes harbors new hope for the entire region.
The statements against Abu Mazen began Friday from sources around the prime minister. There were telephone calls to world leaders to boycott Abu Mazen, in the old-new tone of confrontation and defiance that never helped put out fires in the past, and is not expected to do so this time, either.
Abu Mazen has to understand that time is short, and that much of what will happen in the near future between the Israelis and the Palestinians, including Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, depends on him and his determination. At his inauguration, the new chairman condemned terror and called for an end to the cycle of violence. Sharon cannot make do with declarations and good intentions. It is precisely at this critical moment that the prime minister should meet with Abu Mazen and try to create a joint plan of action instead of rolling down the slippery slope to another round of bloodshed.
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