Even for a president prone to misusing the English language, George W. Bush outdid himself last week.
Sitting next to Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, Bush gushed and swooned over the visiting Palestinian leader, describing him in terms usually reserved for heroes and saints.
"The president is a man of peace," Bush assured the gaggle of reporters who were present. "He's a man of vision. He rejects the idea of using violence to achieve objectives, which distinguishes him from other people in the region."
While Bush's grammar may have been uncommonly accurate that day, his description of Abbas was anything but. For even a cursory glance at some of the Palestinian president's outbursts in recent months reveal a man wholly undeserving of such praise.
On March 1, Abbas had the gall to insult the memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis when he declared that Israel's counter-terror operations in Gaza were "worse than the Holocaust" (Jerusalem Post, March 2).
And in an interview with the Jordanian newspaper Al-Dustur on February 28, Abbas boasted that he had been the first Palestinian to fire a bullet at Israel after the birth of the PLO in 1965.
This ostensible "man of peace" then took pride in the fact that his Fatah movement had trained Hizbullah terrorists, and he did not rule out a return to the "armed struggle" against Israel in the future. And just two weeks ago, Abbas was planning to confer the Al-Quds Mark of Honor, the PLO's highest award, to two female Palestinian terrorists who took part in the killing of Israelis (Israel Radio, April 16). The event was cancelled only after it was publicized widely in the media. Need we also mention the Palestinian president's refusal late last year to recognize Israel as a "Jewish state"?
THIS OF course puts the lie to Bush's stubborn embrace of Abbas as a reasonable and judicious leader that can be counted on to forge a peace deal. If anything, the Palestinian president has repeatedly shown himself to be an intemperate hot-head. Nonetheless, that doesn't seem to stop Washington and much of the media from bestowing upon him the coveted title of a "moderate" leader that Israel can do business with.
All of this shameful fawning on the Palestinian thug-in-chief raises a simple, yet rarely-asked, question: why is there such a widespread insistence on deluding the public into thinking that Abbas is a "moderate" leader who epitomizes the majority of Palestinians?
The issue is more than academic. In fact, it goes directly to the core of current US and Israeli government policy.
After all, the entire intellectual basis for the notion of granting the Palestinians a state rests on the dubious assumption that a majority of them are actually reasonable, peace-loving people. Too bad that all the available evidence appears to indicate otherwise.
Last week, for example, the Palestinian-run Jerusalem Media and Communications Center published the results of a survey revealing that a majority of Palestinians (50.7%) support suicide-bombing attacks against Israeli civilians.
This was in line with previous polls, which have consistently shown overwhelming Palestinian backing for anti-Israel terror. Indeed, just last month, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that an astonishing 84% of Palestinians supported the gruesome execution-style murder of 8 Israeli teens by a Palestinian terrorist at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
And by a margin of 64% to 33%, or nearly two to one, Palestinians were in favor of continued rocket attacks against Israeli towns and cities.
THESE COLD, hard facts present supporters of the peace process with a major problem, if only because they confirm that the very idea of Palestinian moderation is a myth. It is a figment of the imagination, a flight of fantasy that bears little resemblance to reality. After all, it is not as if a tiny minority of Palestinians support the murder of Jews. The bulk of them do. And wishing it were otherwise simply doesn't make it so.
So let's stop fooling ourselves. Giving the Palestinians a state when a majority of them want us dead is both reckless and irresponsible.
It is a recipe for disaster, and will only serve to create yet another radical, terror-sponsoring state in the region.
And let's cease calling Mahmoud Abbas a "moderate." Anyone who refuses to recognize Israel as a "Jewish state," makes a mockery of the Holocaust, and threatens a return to violence, is certainly not deserving of such a characterization. Instead, let's call Abbas what he really is. For if he looks like an extremist, sounds like an extremist, and acts like an extremist, chances are that he is one.
And more importantly, let's start treating him as such.