While the White House was upbeat about Mahmoud Abbas' election to the presidency of the
Authority, U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor
(R-Vir) issued a memorandum cautioning that Abbas' elevation "may just be a prelude to continued terror."
"We cannot be like others who were surprised when terrorist bombers started attacking Israeli
civilians under (Yasser) Arafat's leadership," said Cantor, who is the Republicans' chief deputy
whip in the House of Representatives as well as chairman of a congressional task force on terrorism and unconventional warfare.
"The world was fooled once. We cannot afford to fail again," he added in a Jan. 10 news release.
"Mahmoud Abbas must be held accountable for his words and his actions for peace to come."
Cantor's comments were in marked contrast to the upbeat tone struck by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan during a Jan. 10 briefing for reporters. McClellan said that President
George W. Bush "earlier today offered his congratulations to Abu Mazen on his victory. And the President now looks forward to doing everything we can to help support the meeting in London (to be hosted by British Prime Minister Tony Blair) to help get things moving to put the institutions in place necessary for a democratic state to emerge.
Further, said McClellan, "the President made it very clear that all parties have responsibilities to help the Palestinian people as they move forward on putting institutions in place. Israel has responsibilities, the Arab states in the region have responsibilities, and the Palestinian leadership has a responsibility to move forward on putting in place a unified security force that is committed to fighting terrorism, a responsibility to end corruption, and they have a responsibility to put in place reforms that will lead to democratic institutions."
In his memorandum, Cantor said that during the Palestinian election campaign, Abbas' "anti-Israel message routinely
pandered to the Palestinian terrorists who attack Israeli civilians," Cantor wrote. "Abbas'
untested promises of peace to the West must be judged by his militant comments to supporters in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip."
Cantor contended that although the Palestinian people "have mandated a change," Abbas in the past
has embraced the rhetoric of his predecessor Yasser Arafat "and seemingly supports his platform."
The Republican congressman alluded to Abbas having been hoisted Dec. 30, 2004, on the shoulders of
Zakariya Zubeidi of the Al Aqsa Brigade, and a subsequent reference by Abbas to Israel as the
In addition, The congressman offered a litany of quotations from Abbas to illustrate his concerns,
stretching from Sunday, Jan. 9, when Abbas claimed his election victory back to March 2003.
The quotes and the contexts provided in Cantor's memorandum were as follows:
•January 9, 2005—In his victory speech, Abbas said: "We offer this victory to the soul of the
brother martyr Yasser Arafat and to all Palestinians."
•January 1, 2005—Talking to a Palestinian crowd, Abbas said: "Today we celebrate the 40th
anniversary of the revolution begun by Abu Ammar (Arafat). We will continue
until a Palestinian
boy and girl place a Palestinian flags over the walls and minarets of Jerusalem."
•December 12, 2004—In a speech in the Gaza Strip, Abbas told Palestinians to "continue the
struggle...to raise the Palestinian flag on the walls of Jerusalem, the capital of our independent
•November 23, 2004—Calling for the "Right of Return" for the Palestinian people, Abbas said, "We
will not rest until the right of our people to return is granted."
•March, 2003— Abbas said in an Arabic interview, later reported in the New York Post, that "the
intifada must continue" and that "the Palestinian people have a right to use all means at their
disposal to protect their existence."