If the world needed yet another sign that the United States and Israel were engaged in the same struggle against international terrorism, it was given a cruel one Wednesday, Oct. 15, when Palestinian terrorists killed three American security agents and wounded a junior official from the U.S. Embassy in a roadside attack in Gaza.
If the Jewish community in America needed more proof that the Bush administration was committed to fighting this battle side by side with Israel, the president's words and actions after the incident should alleviate any of those apprehensions.
In a strongly worded condemnation, the president stated that the Palestinian authorities should have "acted long ago to fight terror in all its forms." He pointed out that the failure to create effective Palestinian security forces dedicated to fighting terror continues to cost lives.
It is clear, that both Ariel Sharon and President Bush fully understand that under Yasser Arafat's autocratic regime, terrorists continue to find safe haven, and both have refused to deal with the disgraced leader, who continually undermines any attempt at peace.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the roadside bombing that killed U.S. embassy employees on their way to help Palestinians build a better future, interviewing potential students who were candidates for an academic Fulbright scholarship. President Bush stated that the attack was "another example of how the terrorists are enemies of progress and opportunity for the Palestinian people."
The attack possesses all the trademarks of Palestinian terrorist bombings by Hamas against Israeli vehicles throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Finding the specific group that perpetrated the attack is important, but more importantly the bombing underscores the fact that the Palestinian Authority allows terrorism to exist and fosters an environment that is filled with vile anti-Americanism.
Despite the Bush administration's sincere efforts in brokering a fair peace via the "road map," a document that spells out a lucid and achievable way for the Palestinians to gain statehood, hatred and distrust for Americans permeates the Palestinian territories.
In a recent survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed 97 percent of Palestinians polled believe U.S. policy in the region favors the Israeli side. It also found 96 percent think the American commitment to establishing a Palestinian state is insincere.
The Palestinian Authority could not even muster the energy to help fallen Americans on Wednesday, as the Israeli army had to send in tanks and armored vehicles and a helicopter gunship to help the Americans evacuate the wounded man and the bodies of the victims. U.S. investigators at the site also were attacked several hours later by a mob of Palestinian stone-throwers and had to retreat as their cars were pelted by rocks.
"There must be an empowered prime minister who controls all Palestinian security forces," President Bush said after the bombing. "Reforms that continue to be blocked by Yasser Arafat. The failure to undertake these reforms and dismantle the terrorist organizations constitutes the greatest obstacle to achieving the Palestinian people's dream of statehood."
After the attack, Israeli officials have been instructed to hand over all intelligence information on the attack to the Americans and for security forces to fully cooperate with the FBI and other U.S. investigators. Arafat gave no such instructions.
While most of the media claim this attack sets a new precedent for Palestinian violence against Americans, the reality is quite different. For 30 years, Arafat's PLO, Fatah and various other Palestinian terrorist organizations have ordered or condoned terror against American citizens. Close to 50 Americans have been murdered, and more than 100 wounded, by Palestinian terrorists since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993.
The Bush administration clearly understands that their fight is Israel's fight. After the attacks, Daniel Kurtzer, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, stated that his country fully recognized "Israel's right to defend itself and its citizens" and "associate ourselves with that right."
Conversely, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz echoed this sentiment when he said that Israel views the attack "as if it were committed against IDF soldiers or Israeli citizens."
After the attacks, Sharon adviser Ra'anan Gissin said he believes that the United States "stands for life, for liberty, for democracy here, for pursuing peace."
President Bush is still waiting for a Palestinian partner willing to pursue that peace with him.