A moment of truth

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2007

Like a violence addict waking from a final binge, the Palestinian leadership has reached that rock-bottom moment of clarity. Hamas, the Islamist movement, now sits victorious but isolated in the Gaza Strip, while secular-minded Fatah retains its government seat in the West Bank.

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Let the intervention begin.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has announced plans to restore aid and normal government relations with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.

Even more encouraging is Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's reaction. He says he will resume cooperation and contacts with the West Bank government and signaled plans to release more than $562 million in taxes and customs duties that Israel has withheld from the Palestinians for the past 16 months.

In a New York Times interview published Sunday, Olmert said Israel shares responsibility for easing the Palestinian plight: "It's time for Israel to deal seriously, openly and generously with the suffering of the Palestinians that has taken place over many years as part of the conflict between us and them."

Israelis "want to say to the Palestinians that we are not indifferent to what happened to them," Olmert added. These are healing words that moderate Palestinians need to hear.

This is Fatah's moment of truth. The organization has been notorious for corruption since the days of Yasser Arafat, and its officials have cynically pleaded for aid to ease Palestinian suffering while they siphoned billions into personal bank accounts. The new prime minister, Salam Fayad, brings a welcomed reputation for squeaky-clean transparency into office.

Israel and the United States are smart to seize this opportunity to show Palestinians in concrete ways that Hamas' extremism leads to self-destruction while Fatah's moderate policies are the path to peace and statehood.

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