Yesterday's statement reflects the greater disingenuousness on the part of this Israeli government which, I believe, favors the status quo and the associated gradual land grab via settlement expansion and the construction of the security wall within the green line as opposed to a genuine peace with the Palestinians. Every suicide bomb that explodes in Israel is a huge crime but these acts are not destroying the fabric of Israeli society in the way the Israeli occupation of Palestine is doing to the Palestinian society. It is important to acknowledge this fundamental asymmetry. Israel's military is pre-eminent in the Middle East and it has the near unconditional backing of the world's only superpower. However you look at it the power lies with Israel and, as many constituents within Israeli society acknowledge, this puts the onus on the "occupier" to drive the process.
As votive acknowledges, it's a simple matter of historical fact that Israel was literally fighting for its survival between 1948 and 1967. But the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, and subsequent patronage (economic and military) by the US have dramatically altered the balance of power. Therefore a hard-line response to Abu Mazen is, as Tacitus also points out, counter-productive to Israeli security concerns.
Sharon has, to his great dismay, been given what he asks for. A Palestinian leader who renounces violence. But taking a hard-line is probably the only thig Sharon knows how to do. As Haggai points out, this is short-sighted in the extreme:
In 1953, when a rumor that Hitler might still be alive circulated around the world, an Arab newspaper asked some public figures what they would say to Hitler if they could contact him. As quoted in Bernard Lewis' book "Semites and Anti-Semites," this Arab officer responded: "I congratulate you with all my heart, because, though you appear to have been defeated, you were the real victor." [...] 24 years later, in 1977, the Nazi collaborator and author of that passage--Anwar Sadat--became the first Arab leader to visit Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
whether or not Abu Mazen fills the legacy of Sadat remains to be seen.