- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2001

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has a way with words. The day before the Egyptian president met with President Bush in Washington, Mr. Mubarak was quoted in The Washington Post for saying, "The U.S. cannot just take its hands off," the situation in the Middle East, and that the Bush administration "may not have a picture of whats going on." The next day, in a White House press conference in which Mr. Bush was forced to answer countless questions on whether he was "actively engaged" in the Middle East, Mr. Mubarak switched his tune to: "We are not going to impose any solution on the parties." And of the same man he had just criticized: "He is committed to work for peace." Which is it? Lets look at the record.

Consider the following: In his meeting with Mr. Mubarak Monday, Mr. Bush called for the Egyptian President to use his influence to help quell the violence, particularly with the Palestinians, but also with Israel. Mr. Bush himself has called on Israelis and Palestinians to lay down their arms, and has tried to pressure Mr. Arafat to stop inciting terrorism. He has hosted Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon here in Washington, and will host Jordan´s King Abdullah next week. Secretary of State Colin Powell made the Middle East his first foreign tour, and continues contact with both parties. The U.S. ambassador in Tel Aviv yesterday hosted negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian security officials.

If Mr. Mubarak is not satisfied with this type of engagement, which finally calls on the Middle East to take some responsibility, he may consider the method used by Mr. Bush´s predecessor. The forced peace talks almost brought Israel to the brink of giving up its most holy sites and security and in leading Mr. Arafat to believe he could expect unlimited U.S. support.

Ultimately, though, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not about Mr. Bush or the United States. It is about the two parties involved and about a lasting peace. But neither side can expect to come to the negotiating table while violence is the order of the day. By remaining silent or making excuses when an Israeli baby is killed by a Palestinian sniper or when a Palestinian boy is killed by an Israeli soldier, leaders of both groups condone violent aggression.

Neighbors like Egypt and Jordan can be a part of the solution by using their influence to press the Palestinians to stop acts of terrorism. The United States can urge its ally Israel to respect the human rights of Palestinian civilians, without letting up on its pressure on Mr. Arafat to stop incitement of aggression against Israelis. However, outsiders will never be able to bring peace, regardles of where Mr. Mubarak thinks the United States should be.

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