September 30, 2003 | Fox News

Learning from Mazen’s Mistakes

Abu Mazen's resignation as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority is tragic because it will likely signal a new wave of terrorism from extremist Palestinian groups and defensive reprisals by the Israelis.

His actions, though limited, marked a stark contrast to those implemented before him. In orchestrating the hudna (cease-fire), he showed average Palestinians that their lives could get better without the use of violence and terror.

Furthermore, his willingness to sign the American backed Road Map showed his commitment to a two-state solution. Ultimately, however, he was usurped by those who are convinced that violence is the only way: Arafat and Hamas.

In considering Abu Mazen's tenure, one needs to be fair in considering the roles played by not only Arafat and Hamas but also Israel and the Americans (as is there custom, the Europeans remained on the sidelines on this issue).

Both the Americans and the Israelis were unequivocal in their support for Abu Mazen — quietly ignoring the fact that Abu Mazen wrote his Ph.D. thesis at a Moscow University  in the early 60's denying the Holocaust.

In an attempt to raise international support for Abu Mazen, the Americans launched a worldwide public relations campaign encouraging dignitaries from different nations to sidestep Arafat and deal only with Abu Mazen.

Most notably, the Americans made sure that the “Road map” would be signed at Aqaba between Abu Mazen and Ariel Sharon, not Arafat and Sharon.

Meanwhile, Israelis themselves tried to help Abu Mazen gain support among his own people — doing not only the bare minimum as was required by the Road Map, but also some things which were not included. The Israeli government realized that Abu Mazen wasn't the perfect person to be negotiating with, but he was the best available to work with. Therefore, Israelis restrained from attacking Palestinian terrorists during the hudna (which was a completely internal Palestinian matter), dismantled a number of settlements in the West Bank, and even released upwards of 400 Palestinian prisoners.

This release of Palestinian prisoners was never mentioned in the Road Map and occurred only because Abu Mazen told Israeli negotiators that he would gain support on the Palestinian streets if the prisoners were released.

Unfortunately, Hamas and Arafat have tried to derail both the Road Map and support for Abu Mazen. In its now infamous “Children's Massacre,” which occurred on Aug. 20, a Hamas terrorist packed with explosives blew himself up on a Jerusalem bus killing 20 — among them, many children.

Since then, Israel has retaliated against Hamas activists planning or engaging in terrorist activities against Israelis.

Arafat also did everything in his power to undermine the progress Abu Mazen was trying to make — from consistently fighting with him during cabinet meetings, to not ceding any real diplomatic negotiating power, to ultimately giving tacit if not physical support to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah.

Abu Mazen's failure was neither the result of the Road Map nor was it a consequence of a lack of cooperation from the Israelis.

Rather, Abu Mazen failed because he never received the backing from his own government necessary to take real action against terrorists and radical Palestinian fundamentalists.

Abu Mazen believed in something which is practically absent in the Palestinian Authority — constraint, the eradication of terrorism, and, ultimately, the belief in a two state solution.

If another rational leader doesn't emerge out of the Palestinian government, Arafat and Hamas will have won out and more innocent blood will be spilled.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 12 edition of the The Johns Hopkins News Letter, the college newspaper for Johns Hopkins University. Ilya Bourtman  an Undergraduate Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, is a sophomore studying history and international relations. He is vice-president of Coalition of Hopkins Activists for Israel.  Students at JHU watch the Fox News channel on their campus cable system.