- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2002

President Bush is being praised for taking a more positive role with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian war by sending Secretary of State Colin Powell into the region. In fact, he is walking into a quagmire because all proposed solutions are so dangerous to the existence of Israel that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dare not accept them. The eventual result will be the expulsion of the Palestinians, the collapse or radicalization of major Arab states, and the end of any viable Middle Eastern policy.

The much-praised Saudi plan was never feasible, Even if sincere, conditions would be attached that make it unworkable. The Saudis, in addition to other Arab states, have been proved to finance terrorism, and official appointees of the Saudi regime published the blood libel that Jews kill, in this case, Muslims to use their blood in religious ceremonies. Moreover, the Arab regimes are unpopular and cannot bind their successors.

No future Israeli government will ever again trust Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. He speaks one message in English and a contradictory message in Arabic. It is proven that he has sponsored many of the terror attacks. Even his secular schools demonize all Jews in a manner reminiscent of the virulent publications of Julius Streicher in the Nazi era. Some madrassas advocate killing Jews, as did a mullah appointed by Mr. Arafat. Indoctrinating hatred, especially among the very young, is not a program of a leader who wants peace.

The risks I repeatedly asked Israeli leaders to accept in the 1970s and '80s to provide the Palestinians with a dignified homeland have been raised unacceptably high by Mr. Arafat's deliberate policies. Even were it true that he really wants peace, what Israeli leader could now believe that, or that he could control the radicals even if he were sincere?

If a peace treaty is signed, what will Israel do if terrorists after a few years cross the borders in a new intifada? Even if the Palestinian state agrees not to invite foreign armies, what will Israel do if Arab divisions enter in slow motion in a clandestine manner? Or if missiles are smuggled in? Israel, which will be less than 15 miles wide at the center, will be deterred by international pressure from defensive measures until it is too late. Mr. Sharon is no fool on this issue, however arrogant and insensitive he is in other respects. He is not ready to commit Israel to suicide.

Is there an alternative that might satisfy Mr. Sharon and that might persuade him to accept a viable Palestinian state in which most of the settlements are gone? Simply putting American or U.N. peacekeepers in place will not work. The Palestinians are no fools either. After a period of quiet, there would be years of assassinations of the peacekeepers that would discourage such forces from remaining in the absence of an overt attack against Israel.

It would be wrong and self-defeating to coerce Israel unless we have a plan that makes sense. Making Israel a member of NATO as an integral part of the settlement, after which an attack on it would be an attack on all, might provide the assurance needed. If this were accompanied by an agreement that Israel had the right to take reprisals if terrorist attacks resumed and the Palestinian state showed less than due diligence in attempting to control it and to punish the perpetrators, Mr. Sharon might see a solution and be willing to face the wrath of Israeli extremists as he once did in the Sinai.

In the absence of a viable strategy of destroying Israel and in the presence of a developing economy that would be threatened by continued intifada, the Palestinians eventually might come to recognize the permanence of Israel. The Palestinian state could be promised future membership in NATO if it instituted democratic government and the rule of law, forbade education designed to produce hatred, and outlawed organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad while severely punishing clandestine groups for attempted or actual terrorism.


Morton A. Kaplan is distinguished service professor of political science emeritus at the University of Chicago and is editor and publisher of The World & I, a monthly magazine published by The Washington Times Corp. Mr. Kaplan with co-author Cherif Bassiouni published an extensive peace plan in 1974, which advocated a Palestinian state and negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization. In 1980, he helped persuade Shimon Peres to meet with a specific PLO representative whom he respected and trusted.


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