- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 15, 2001

The Sharon victory was no surprise. What makes it significant is the overwhelming 62 percent mandate. No head of a democratic state has achieved such a victory in this century.
The message from the electorate was "enough." Enough of Ehud Barak's government of zigzags and reneging on his electoral campaign red lines.
The Bush administration has called for an end to the Clinton diplomacy. The new administration seeks to establish an independent Bush Middle East policy. The hands-on Clintonian diplomacy is over. Middle East policy must link the peace process to a regional perspective. In the words of Secretary of State Colin Powell, "The search for peace is seen in a regional context."
This administration will face unpredictable events in the future. The Clinton administration was fortunate to take office at a time that the Oslo process was in motion and there was still hope for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.
The Bush administration has come to power during a bloody intifada, a low-intensity war against Israel, and a moribund Oslo. A regional approach calls for political and diplomatic linkage between the Israel-Palestine conflict, the role of moderate Arab regimes, and the confrontational states of Iraq and Syria, as well as an overall fight against Islamic terrorism.
This complicated regional policy could exacerbate rather than pacify current conflicts. Yasser Arafat will not allow the Sharon government and Israeli people to enjoy peace. He will not be marginalized in favor of Syria-Israel negotiations. Therefore, feeling unable to persuade the United States to distance itself from Israel, he will plan his usual role as an instigator of violence, hoping Mr. Sharon will retaliate heavily, making the life of moderate Arab rulers intolerable and establishing a tacit alliance with Saddam Hussein, his Gulf war ally.
Mr. Arafat has been willing to sacrifice 400 Palestinians so far. He will not be deterred from losing 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000 Palestinians in order to ignite the turbulent Middle East, forcing the U.S. to choose between Israel and the Arab moderates, and to help distance the United States from Israel.
No Arab state will go to war against Israel willingly. Mr. Arafat will try to force them into war through his expanding intifada. U.S. interests in the Middle East call for disentangling ourselves from the Arafat method of putting a noose around the neck of U.S. regional interests. To accomplish that, the United States must take the following actions immediately:
(1) Warn Mr. Arafat unambiguously that any effort on his part to link the Palestine issue to Iraqi ambitions must be nipped in the bud.
(2) Make it clear to Saddam Hussein that war against Israel with the formation of an eastern front with Syria, and imposing its will on Jordan, tacitly supported by Saudi Arabia, will bring the total support of the United States to Israel.
(3) Establish a strategy to deter Mr. Arafat and his ally Saddam from their determination to ignite the region.
(4) Warn Syria that war with Israel is against its interests and would bring it to a diplomatic and political confrontation with the United States.
(5) Provide a diplomatic, political and military shield to Jordan.
All Israeli prime ministers come to Washington first to affirm the special American-Israeli strategic relationship. This administration, composed of conservative realists, should not only reiterate but also strengthen this relationship, providing Israel with state-of-the-art anti-missile defense, since the next war in the Middle East will be remote-control missile warfare. This will not only deter Saddam, but also strengthen the American resolve to confront him when it becomes necessary.
A strategic alliance with Israel, defense of Jordan, deterring Saddam and the Syrians, is in conformity with this administration's central policies on the Middle East. The only two individuals who can scuttle American interests in the Middle East are Saddam and Mr. Arafat.
Ariel Sharon is already building necessary links in America. There are three institutional and political forces to which he has sent emissaries: the president, Congress and the American Jewish community. They are friendly institutions, especially the Republican president and Congress, but Mr. Sharon has yet to win the support of the entire Jewish community, whose vocal minority is made up of liberals engaged in demonizing him in the media, the universities and in public opinion.
A regional American policy in the Middle East must be anchored in support of Israel and its security.

Amos Perlmutter is a professor of political science and sociology at American University and editor of the Journal of Strategic Studies.

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