"Perfume on a dirty neck" came to mind as Abu Mazen submitted his resignation to Yasser Arafat and the "rais" accepted it. Key to both President Bush's 24 June 2001 speech and the "Road Map" was the fact that the Palestinians needed "new leadership untainted by terror." Abu Mazen was neither, and his "Prime Ministership" was simply a way to make Arafat smell better to those, including the Administration, who still think Israel's war is something other than the war we fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those who are even now unwilling to let Israel sever the link between terrorists and the states* that harbor and support them.
Whether Abu Mazen wanted to be a peacemaker is irrelevant. He never could have been. Whether Abu Mazen wanted to "dismantle the terrorist infrastructure" is irrelevant. He never could have. Whether Abu Mazen believed in a secure "two--state solution" is irrelevant. There never can be one as long as the money, the guns, the terrorist philosophy and the local and international legitimacy reside in Arafat. (Maybe not even then, but surely not until then.)
The President made a point of asking our Quartet "allies" not to deal with Arafat, and they made a point of doing exactly that. The French, Germans, British and others publicly paid obeisance to Arafat and PA officials called Arafat "elected by the people." (Never mind that the election was rigged and the term ran out in 1999.) Bad enough. Ruinous, even. But the last straw, clearly, was the Secretary of State--the President's own man--calling on Arafat to "help" Abu Mazen control terrorism against Israel after the last bus bombing. Why didn't he just put a horse head on Abu Mazen's bedpost?
Arafat remains in charge of the Palestinians because the world, apparently including Mr. Powell, wants him to be, not because Israel couldn't change the facts on the ground. Israel's hands are tied in a war for its own survival because the Quartet, and apparently the President, is irrevocably wedded to the dangerous notion that it is our duty to provide the Palestinians with a "real" state. But Israel can no more negotiate with the PA than we could with the Taliban or Saddam.
The basic principle of the American-led war against terrorists and the states that harbor and support them is that the relationship is symbiotic. Terrorists need assets provided by governments that have legitimacy in the eyes of the international community, and terrorists provide an anonymous way for states to kill. You can try to kill individual terrorists and foil individual plots--and you have to--but you also have to dry up the sea in which they swim, the places they get money, weapons and training, and the places they hide when the gruesome deeds are done. How come America can and Israel can't?
In many cases, the same countries that oppose the coalition in Iraq also oppose Israel's war. They don't understand the nature of the problem and maybe they never will. But the President does and we expect better from him--and from Mr. Powell.
*No, the PA is not a state, but it has the necessary attributes of a state for the purposes of supporting terrorism, which is the relevant point.