- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2001

A 10-month old baby is shot in the head by a Palestinian sniper on Monday. A Palestinian civilian is killed as Israelis fire rockets on the West Bank and Gaza on Wednesday. Two Israeli teen-agers are killed by a suicide bomber as they wait for their morning bus the same day. A Palestinian student who reads aloud the reason for his death before he becomes that suicide bomber is groomed by Hamas to become one of the martyrs "prepared to turn their bodies and their bones into shrapnel that will kill the Zionist occupiers." Are these merely the consequences of war, or the result of strategically planned acts, designed to incite hatred?

Though the conflict has been brewing for decades, the current downward spiral was massaged by Bill Clinton, whose role as peace dictator left Israel with a choice between allowing a Palestinian state, the parameters of which would jeopardize Israeli security, and continuing to experience the taunting attacks of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his men. At Camp David last year, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak chose the former. Mr. Arafat was too fond of the taunting game to give his people what they had been asking for. Mr. Clinton was too obsessed with a peace prize and his own legacy to allow the Israelis to dictate their own terms for peace. The talks collapsed, and the void was filled with violence.

Now the Israelis have had enough. In two days, the Israelis saw three attacks on their people by suicide bombers. Wednesday´s attacks on the headquarters of Mr. Arafat´s presidential guard, a Palestinian training camp and other government buildings resulting in 60 wounded and two dead were the unfortunate result of that understandable frustration.

Now President Bush is aptly calling on the Palestinian Authority to speak out against violence and terrorism, and for Israel to show restraint in its military response. The president will also be meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Monday and Jordan´s King Abdullah the following week.

As Mr. Bush wades into the policy disaster left by Mr. Clinton, he is taking a positive first step by strengthening ties with other powerful leaders in the region. These countries are vital in keeping Mr. Arafat accountable for his dictatorial abuse of power inciting human rights violations and bringing suffering to his own people. They also have the influence to motivate other Arab nations to come to the Palestinians´ aid politically and militarily, a leverage the United States and Israel would rather remain unused.

When asked yesterday morning whether he was sorry that he hadn´t been more involved in the peace process since he´d been in office, Mr. Bush reiterated that peace is not something that can be forced. "It requires two willing parties to come to the table to enact a peace treaty that will last," he said. How refreshing. For this round, a U.S. president is not going to throw his hat into a game of self-interest that has passed as a peace process. Let´s hope the instigators take heed.


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