Their true colors

April 19, 2006

Sending a suicide bomber into a fast-food restaurant filled with ordinary citizens can only be described as a terrorist act. The new Palestinian government's characterization of the bombing in Tel Aviv as "a form of self-defense" demands only one response: condemnation. Blaming the murder of civilians Monday on the Israeli occupation is utterly repugnant.

The attack took place just three weeks after members of the militant group Hamas, which swept the Palestinian elections in January, took office. Hamas, a sponsor of terrorist acts in the past, has upheld its part of a yearlong cease-fire, but its refusal to condemn the Tel Aviv attack by an Islamic Jihad bomber could have dangerous consequences. The Palestinian Authority's response may well encourage other terrorist attacks and spur a return to the cycle of violence that dominated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from 2000 to 2005.

It runs counter to the prevailing platform for peace that requires the PA to combat terrorism. But members of an internationally sanctioned terrorist group that has dispatched dozens of suicide bombers into Israel dominate this democratically elected government. Their callous response to the Tel Aviv bombing reinforces the view that Hamas leaders have no intention of ever moderating their views, which include the destruction of Israel. The hope has been that Hamas' entry into mainstream politics and the demands of governing would convince its leaders of the need to reform. But they remain steadfast to the group's ideals.

Hamas leaders want to blame Israel and the United States for the impoverishment of Palestinians; the United States and European donors have withheld millions in aid from the Palestinian Authority because of its refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist. But if Hamas officials continue to espouse an ideology of violence, things will only get worse for Palestinians; handouts of $50 million from Qatar and the hard-liners in Iran won't go very far.

Hamas leaders have failed to grasp the political realities that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rightly understands: Supporting violence harms the interests of the Palestinian people.

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