Sinn Fein Party leader Gerry Adams is in the United States this week for St.
But as disinterested in Adams as some of us might be, the comings and goings
of the head of the political wing of the Provisional Irish Republican Army
should also be required reading for those who care about the Arab-Israeli
That's because up until recently, Adams could not only count on a friendly
reception from prominent Irish-American politicians such as Sen. Ted Kennedy
(D-Mass.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), but he has even spent the holiday in the
Not this year.
The euphoria over the 1999 Good Friday Agreement that seemed to mark the
beginning of the end of the violence in Northern Ireland made Adams very popular
in the United States, even among those who were not necessarily sympathetic to
his cause of uniting all 32 counties of the Emerald Isle (including the six
currently living under the Union Jack) in a socialist republic free of British
Thankfully, there's been no return to an all-out terror war between
Protestants and Catholics. But the descent of the "military" wing of the IRA into
brutal criminality, and the unwillingness of the group to disarm and operate as a
strictly political entity have made life abroad a little less pleasant for
THE FLAVOR OF THE MONTH
This time around, Adams will not lift a glass with Kennedy or King. And the
White House is also out of bounds. The anger of the leaders of both Britain and
the Irish Republic not to mention the revulsion of a growing number of
Northern Irish Catholics at the lawlessness of his men have made Adams unwelcome
on these shores.
That is a lesson that recently elected Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas should take to heart.
Abbas is the flavor of the month these days in Washington. Like Adams, and
unlike his old comrade Yasser Arafat, Abbas wears a suit, not combat fatigues.
And on this image as a peacemaker do the hopes of Americans and Israelis rest.
In the few short months since Arafat passed on to what one can only hope will
be a measure of justice in the next world, Abbas has transformed the image of
the Palestinians in the United States. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
and President George W. Bush both agree that Abbas is a worthy partner for
peace. And they are doing their best to bolster what they hope will be his campaign
to transform Palestinian society.
Essential to the plan is money. Abbas needs American funds to bankroll the
bankrupt P.A., and jumpstart a Palestinian economy ravaged by both war and the
corruption of Abbas' own Fatah Party. The White House wants Congress to give
Abbas $200 million now. There is little doubt he will get it, and even less that
more will follow in the future.
The sticking point is the reluctance of some members of Congress to approve
the aid without including provisions that would provide genuine accountability
for the use of the money by the Palestinians. Interestingly, the current
legislation on the aid does not include something that served in the past to make
What's missing is a measure that would allow President Bush to override
congressional concerns about misuse of American taxpayer dollars by the
Palestinians by his invoking unspecified "national security" concerns. In the Oslo era,
this mechanism allowed President Bill Clinton to silence questions about
Arafat and keep the dollars flowing.
The mainstream American Israel Public Affairs Committee supports both the aid
and the omission of the waiver. But some American Jewish supporters of the
peace process not to mention the Bush administration think eliminating the
waiver is a bad idea.
The Israel Policy Forum, which pushed for the failed Oslo process even after
it crashed and burned, thinks giving real accountability for the aid is
endangering "goodwill" for the Palestinians and Abbas.
CAN'T SAY NO TO ISRAEL
On the other end of the spectrum, the Zionist Organization of America thinks
the aid is just a bad idea. They point to Abbas' history of support for
terror and his dabbling in Holocaust denial as reason to make the P.A. ineligible
for U.S. help.
Their argument has logic, but the problem is that if there is to be a peace
process at all, the facts dictate that it must be greased by American cash.
Call it bribery if you like, but no dough, no chance of peace. And as long as the
Israeli people and their government want to pursue the Abbas gambit, American
Jews cannot say no to it, no matter how justified concerns about the P.A.
leader might seem.
But without holding the Palestinian's feet to the fire on his pledges to end
terror and create a real democracy (as opposed to the kleptocracy he and
Arafat ran for a decade), there's little chance the outcome will differ from the
What we should be asking both the administration and Congress to do is to not
repeat the mistakes the United States made in the 1990s as "goodwill"
trumped the truth about Arafat.
It may be that in many respects, Abbas is no different than his predecessor,
but if he delivers a real cease-fire and creates something approaching a civil
society on his side of the security fence, few Israelis will care.
Rather than squabbling over the terms of the aid in a futile repeat of the
stupid politics of the Oslo era, Bush and American supporters of Israel need to
be creating a process of accountability for Abbas, not a mechanism for him to
escape the consequences of his actions.
Abbas and those who would give him a free ride need to look at what happened
to Gerry Adams this week and take heed.
If Fatah and its Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, in addition to Hamas and Islamic
Jihad, prove as unwilling to disarm as the IRA, then peace is not going to be on
the menu. Oslo should teach us that the revival of hopes for peace is exactly
the time to set tough standards of behavior. Wearing a suit and speaking
nicely wasn't enough to give Adams a pass. The same standard ought to apply to