- The Washington Times - Monday, June 16, 2003

A State Department emissary arrived Sunday to try to revive a “road map to peace” that last week resulted in the deaths of 50 Israelis and Palestinians, and injuries to at least 130 more.

“[John] Wolf is coming to convey President Bush’s determination that a process in which he has invested so much of his personal prestige cannot be allowed to collapse,” a diplomat, who asked not to be identified, told the London Telegraph.

Peace between Arabs and Israelis is greatly to be desired, for a host of reasons. The least significant is to prevent embarrassment to politicians.

But as with President Clinton’s peace initiative in 2000, which led to the intifada President Bush’s peace initiative is trying to end, the tail is wagging the dog.

The current violence in the Middle East is not Mr. Bush’s fault. Nor is it Mr. Clinton’s. But whenever the United States proposes a peace settlement between Arabs and Israelis, violence increases. That is a reality to which our policymakers ought to pay greater attention than they do.

There are distinctions between Mr. Bush’s peace plan and that offered by Mr. Clinton three years ago. But they are distinctions without a difference. The broad outlines for a “two-state solution” have been known for years: Palestinians recognize the right of Israel to exist, and stop launching terror attacks against it. Israelis dismantle (some, most, all) of the settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The international community sweetens the pot by showering both parties with aid.

Either the Bush plan or the Clinton plan would work if both Israelis and Palestinians were willing to live with each other. Neither has because the Palestinians aren’t. Recent opinion polls indicate a large majority of Palestinians wants to destroy Israel.

Mr. Bush hoped the U.S. victory in Iraq, and the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, had created the conditions that would make peace possible. He was premature.

The intifada will continue until many more Palestinians than at present see greater benefits from liberty, democracy and peace, and many more Palestinians than at present see greater harm from continued conflict. In other words, the intifada will continue until things get much better in Iraq, and much worse (for terrorists) in the West Bank and Gaza.

Saddam Hussein has been ousted. But it is not yet clear to Arabs elsewhere that the lives of ordinary Iraqis have been very much improved. That will happen, but it will take years.

Yasser Arafat has been elbowed out of the spotlight, but not out of the picture. Mr. Abbas cannot deliver on promises to end terror unless he is willing to fight a civil war. There is no indication Mr. Abbas has the desire to do so, and little likelihood that he could win if he did. Some day, Palestinians may be willing to support a moderate in a confrontation with radicals. But that day appears to be a long way off.

Despite its failure, Mr. Bush’s peace plan would have been worthwhile if the responsibility for failure were pinned squarely where it belongs — on the Palestinian rejectionists. But trying to revive a comatose “peace process” muddies the water.

Diehards loyal to Saddam Hussein have been ambushing American soldiers in Iraq. Our soldiers are not attempting to negotiate with the Ba’athists. They are hunting them down. There will be no peace in the Middle East until the Israelis do to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the West Bank and Gaza what we have been doing in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There has developed among liberals the notion that killing Jews should be, at worst, a misdemeanor. But it is hypocritical for us to launch a worldwide war on terror when our women and children are killed, and to demand that Israelis show “restraint” when theirs are slaughtered.

The deliberate targeting of noncombatants is evil. No cause in the world can justify it. Only when this truth is recognized by the Palestinians — and by our diplomats — can there be peace in the Middle East.

Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration and is national security writer for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.

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