May 19, 2005 | New York Daily News

Abbas Talks, Won’t Walk the Walk…

By: Richard Z. Chesnoff.

With Israel set to withdraw from the Gaza Strip this summer, you'd think everyone would focus on the Jewish state's daring gamble for peace. Instead, the world legion of bend-over-backward analysts keeps harping about what Israel isn't doing and how by incorporating a Jewish suburb into Jerusalem city limits and continuing the security barricade that keeps terrorists out, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is endangering chances for peace.

These self-appointed Mideast mavens ignore the real threat to peace progress: Palestinian foot-dragging on terrorism and on cooperating with their Israeli neighbors in joint economic efforts that could make the Israeli withdrawal a success for all concerned.

Consider this: Jerusalem has made at least eight offers of economic cooperation to the Palestinians that have been either ignored or simply rejected. The list, says my old friend, Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz, “makes for depressing reading.”

Among them, he says, is Israel's offer to build rail links between the West Bank and Gaza, and between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli port of Ashdod, which would facilitate the flow of people and/or goods between the two areas. The Palestinians have yet to respond to the idea.

Likewise Israeli offers to reopen Erez industrial park, which before the intifadeh provided livelihoods for tens of thousands of Gaza families, and to discuss completion of the Gaza seaport, readmission to Israel of thousands of Palestinian day workers and construction with the Palestinians of West Bank road systems.

Most shocking: The Palestinian refusal to discuss the orderly handover of the network of hothouses and other agricultural and industrial assets that Israel's Gaza settlers will leave behind – a network that if left intact would be of monumental benefit to the Palestinian economy.

Why the refusal to cooperate? Put simply, new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas doesn't want to be seen as cooperating too much with Israel. His advisers, say Palestinian and Israeli sources, tell him Israel is pulling out anyway, and they'd prefer the propaganda benefit of some chaos so they can claim they've chased the Israelis out.

But there's an even bigger peace obstacle: no clear sign the Palestinians are cracking down on terrorism. Abbas talks a lot about dismantling rogue groups. He's shaken up the Palestinian security setup, retired old, corrupt Arafat appointees and sworn there'll be “one authority, one law and one gun” – in other words, one legal armed force and no terrorist militias.

Problem is, he has done nothing yet to disarm gangs like Hamas and Islamic Jihad who keep lobbing missiles into Israeli territory. Until he does that, even withdrawal from Gaza and the northern West Bank won't lead to new peace negotiations, and it certainly won't encourage the Israelis to let down their security guard.