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The Company Abbas Keeps

Yes, I know we're supposed to think of Mahmoud Abbas as a moderate. It may be the case that he actually does not have blood on his hands. So, given that Hamas is his sworn enemy (both ways), he is for all intents and purposes the moderate of the moment. But, then, all the folk now reassuring us of Abbas's moderation also assured us that Arafat, yes, Yassir Arafat, was a moderate, too. Given what Abu Amar (his nom de guerre meaning "father of war") did eight years ago in rejecting what Ehud Barak offered him and what more Bill Clinton squeezed Barak into offering him I conclude that he was not a moderate at all. He was a lunatic. No surprise, really. So what is Abbas?

Anyway, the Israelis have been trying to strengthen him and his forces. General Keith Dayton and his team -- small in number, proficient in soldiering -- have been trying to build a Palestinian security force that will keep Abbas and the Palestinian Authority alive...and even well.

But the fact is that, every few days, Abbas does something so egregious that I feel like a fool trying to fit the moderate square into the fanatic circle.

Abbas went to Beirut. He must have had urgent business there. Of course, he's the president of the Arab state of Palestine. And in the Arab state of Lebanon there a few hundred thousand Palestinians. Plus: maybe he can learn from Lebanon's government, which is not much of a government, how he can make the government of Palestine more like a government. Arab governments are a lot like a merry-go-round but not with golden rings. They live by bullets and bombs.

So what did Abbas do in Beirut? Well, we know one thing he did. He met with the demonic Samir Kuntar, one of the terrorists released to Hezbollah in exchange for the bones of kidnapped Eldad Regev and Ehud Godlwasser. Recall only one of his crimes: Kuntar is the luminary who smashed the skull of a 4-year-old girl while also murdering her father. He was welcomed by hundreds of thousands of cheering Beirutis, not an inaccurate picture of the gruesome politics now overwhelming the Arab world.

Kuntar and Abbas are now sparring over who asked for the meeting. Abbas says Kuntar; Kuntar says Abbas. It hardly matters. We now know with whom Abbas is comfortable having coffee.

Abbas's visit with Kuntar, the president of Palestine meeting with a killer for Palestine, reminded me of another visit by the real head of a real Arab state, the Kingdom of Jordan. When a crazed Jordanian soldier killed six Israeli school girls on a visit to Jordan, the monarch, King Hussein, a descendant of the Prophet, came to Israel for condolence calls, shiva calls, to all of the bereaved families.

I don't know about you. I'd never had been able to sit down with Kuntar under any circumstances. And, frankly, I wouldn't sit down with Abbas either.