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Bush forgot about American victims of Palestinian terror

Michael Freund, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 19, 2005

Who said terrorists can't kill Americans and get away with it? This past Saturday, October 15, marked precisely two years since Palestinian terrorists blew up a US diplomatic convoy in Gaza, killing three Americans and injuring one.

In the intervening period, the Palestinian Authority, first under Yasser Arafat and now with Mahmoud Abbas at the helm, has repeatedly refused to punish the perpetrators, preferring instead to allow those who killed Americans to roam free.

But that doesn't seem to bother George W. Bush all that much. Rather than using the second anniversary of the attack to berate the Palestinians for harboring terrorists, Bush chose instead to hand them a diplomatic gift.

In a brief memorandum addressed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bush approved a six-month waiver of the 1987 Anti-Terrorism Act, thereby allowing the PLO's offices in America to remain open.

In his memo, Bush wrote, "I hereby determine and certify that it is important to the national security interests of the United States" that PLO offices on US soil continue to function.

No explanation was offered by Bush as to how precisely it serves US national security interests to allow a terrorist organization with American blood on its hands to operate on US territory.

Nor did the president feel it necessary to make his issuance of the waiver contingent on any concrete Palestinian steps to crack down on terrorist groups.

It was just another 'freebie' tossed their way, by none other than the leader of the war on terror himself.

Halfway across the globe, Rice was also busy making nice to the Palestinians. In a press briefing aboard a flight from Moscow, where she had met with senior Russian officials, Rice made sure to note just how important it is for the US to assist the Palestinian Authority - the very same gang providing safe haven to the killers of Americans.

"What we need to do," opined Rice on October 15, "is to help Abu Mazen create an atmosphere in which calm can be maintained." She said not a word, not a single word, about pressing the Palestinian leader to finally arrest and hand over the perpetrators of the 2003 attack.

AND SO, on the very same day that the families of the three Americans were mourning their loved ones killed two years ago by Palestinian terrorists, all Condi Rice could speak of was the need "to help" the terrorists' chieftain and protector, Mahmoud Abbas.

To really appreciate how absurd and offensive the Bush Administration's current stance on this issue is, it's worth recalling just how brazen the convoy attack was.

This was not a case of the terrorists hitting the "wrong" target. Reports at the time indicated that the perpetrators used a remote-controlled explosive device, activating it only once the Americans were in range.

The vehicles targeted all had diplomatic license plates, and were traveling on a road that was closed to Israeli traffic, so it was obvious the attackers knew whom they were hitting, and that it was a methodical and intentional assault.

Moreover, in the weeks leading up to the incident, the Palestinian media were rife with vitriolic anti-American incitement and rhetoric.

Just five days prior to the bombing, Palestinian television broadcast a sermon delivered in Gaza in which the preacher threatened "destruction for the United States" and noted ominously, "From this place [i.e. Gaza] we warn the American people that this president is dragging them to the abyss." Likewise, in another broadcast four weeks earlier, a Palestinian spokesman declared, "We will defeat America as long as it supports our enemy... we consider America to be our No. 1 enemy."

And lest one think that the Palestinians have been doing all they can to track down the killers, here is what the late PA military intelligence chief Musa Arafat told Reuters in September 2004: "Palestinian security forces know who was behind the killing of three Americans in Gaza nearly a year ago but cannot act against the factions while fighting with Israel continues."

In the wake of the recent Israeli retreat from Gaza, even this flimsy Palestinian excuse no longer holds water, and it is high time for the Bush administration to put its foot down and demand some action from the PA.

Indeed, Abu Mazen is slated today to pay a visit to Washington, where he will undoubtedly be feted as the "last great hope" for Middle Eastern peace, freedom and stability.

But however many champagne glasses are clinked at the White House during the Palestinian leader's stay, they cannot drown out the elemental cry for justice that has thus far gone unheeded.

TWO YEARS ago, John Branchizio, 37, of Texas; John Linde Jr., 30, of Missouri; and Mark Parsons, 31, of New Jersey, all died in Gaza as a direct result of Palestinian terror. They are among the more than 50 American citizens murdered by Palestinian terrorists since the signing of the Oslo accords, and none of their killers have yet to pay for their actions.

In a rousing speech earlier this month, President Bush underlined his determination to fight those who target Americans. "Against such an enemy," he said, "there is only one effective response: We will never back down, never give in, and never accept anything less than complete victory."

Nonetheless, as he prepares to roll out the red carpet for the blood-stained Palestinian patron of terror, Mahmoud Abbas, the president's words cannot help but ring just a little bit hollow.