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Trying to keep the peace



Published: Sat, February 26, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The tentative peace that they hammered out is squarely in the hands of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon following a suicide bombing outside a Tel Aviv nightclub that killed four young Israelis.

Both reacted in ways that showed they are committed to maintaining a truce that is barely three weeks old. Sharon, who just last week announced that his military will no longer destroy the family homes of suicide bombers in retribution, simply ordered a curfew for the bomber's village.

More significantly, Abbas declared that the Palestinian Authority would not tolerate sabotage of the peace process and within hours his security forces made two arrests.

Uncharacteristic denials

Initial reports were that the bomber was recruited from a West Bank village by Hezbollah, the terrorist organization that gets its backing from both Syria and Iran. Hezbollah is denying involvement, which may represent the truth or may represent the recognition that Abbas, unlike his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, will not allow elements inside or outside of his authority to undermine his progress.

The three main militant groups in the West Bank and Gaza -- Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades -- also denied involvement, and none hung the customary posters of congratulations at the bomber's home.

Under the best of circumstances, Sharon and Abbas are a long way from reaching an agreement that they and their constituencies can live with. But clearly, progress will never be made if renegades are allowed to undermine the peace process.




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