Last Monday’s suicide terror attack in the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat, which resulted in the murder of three civilians in a bakery, should end the perception that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction represent a force for moderation in Palestinian politics.

In response to the attack, Fatah-owned media outlets were jubilant. “Three Israelis were killed in an operation whose agent was heroically martyred [istash-hada] in the resort of Eilat,” reported the Fatah newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, which is controlled by Abbas and his aides.

The paper showed a picture of the bomber, Muhammad Faisal Al-Siksik, labeling him as a “shahid,” a martyr. In addition, Abbas’s media prominently featured a statement by Islamic Jihad, which carried out the bombing with the help of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade of the Fatah organization, that the attack on Eilat “was the natural result” of Israeli occupation.

Terrorists from Islamic Jihad also made it clear that in carrying out the attack they were explicitly fulfilling Abbas’s request that the Palestinians stop fighting each other and start aiming their weapons against Israel. “Our rifles, all our rifles are being aimed at the enemy,” declared a masked spokesman for Islamic Jihad shortly after the attack. “This operation, which was carried out by the heroes of the resistance in Um Ar-Rashrash, in the lands of 1948,” ” declared the Jihad statement, using the old Arabic name for Eilat, and stressing that the attacks on Israeli “occupation” also meant attacks on Israeli territory held before the 1967 war.

The statement echoed Abbas’s call, two weeks ago, for Palestinian unity and for attacking Israeli “occupation” instead of “brother” Palestinians. “Let a thousand flowers bloom, and let our rifles, all our rifles, all our rifles, be aimed at the Occupation,” declared Abbas in a public rally that was aired on Palestinian television and radio on January 11, but his words were largely ignored by the Western press and diplomatic corps.

Abbas, who heads the PLO, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, did not issue a clear condemnation of the attack, though some Israeli media and diplomats reported that he had. Only several days later did Voice of Palestine radio issue a minor report stating that one of Abbas’s aides, Ahmad Abdul-Rahman, had said that the Palestinian leadership opposed attacks on civilians. Nonetheless, neither Abbas nor Abdul-Rahman appeared on radio or television to make the statement themselves.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in the last six months in internecine fighting, what Palestinians call felataan amni, or security chaos, more than 40 in the last five days alone. Subsequent statements by Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terrorist organizations seemed to confirm suspicions that the attack was an attempt to move the Palestinians away from killing each other by moving them back to killing Israelis.

The internet web site of Islamic Jihad said the “Eilat operation” was meant to unite Palestinians of all organizations, and it seemed to work. Pictures on Arab satellite television this week showed celebrations of the attack in Eilat, as several Palestinian women chanted “Wihda, wihda wattaniyya”-Unity, National Unity. Voice of Palestine radio reported on Tuesday that a truce between Fatah and Hamas had been reached, and V.O.P. said there was relative quiet in the Gaza Strip and West Bank areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

While one seeks in vain for Palestinian remorse over the deaths of Israeli innocents, and indeed for any evidence of moderation, there are innumerable signs that Palestinians are determined to heal the wounds of the recent civil war and to direct their destructive fury, yet again, against Israel.

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——————————————————————————– Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication whose doctorate dealt with the Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post. He has also served as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in 1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem.

This was feratured in | February 2, 2007