- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Fortunately for George W. Bush, there's no law against great expectations. He "expects" Yasser Arafat to stop the violence against Israel. Mother Capone no doubt once had great expectations for her little Al, too.

The president says he "expects" the Israelis, fighting for survival, to withdraw their military forces from the West Bank, and to do it now.

Said Mr. Bush yesterday in Tennessee: "I repeat: I meant what I said about withdrawal without delay. Now, I mean what I say when I call upon the Arab world to strongly condemn and act against terrorist activities."

This has drawn only private snickers in the Arab world, and public affirmation and admiration of the Palestinian suicide strategy that has, proportionately, inflicted higher casualties on Israel than the September 11 atrocities inflicted on the United States. The Arabs obviously regard what the president thinks as something like the hundred or more "serious warnings" the Chinese were wont to issue with a shaking of little fists. The Bush administration, feeling pressure to do something even if it's something foolish, wants to force Israel to do something perilous because the Bushies know that neither they nor anyone else can persuade the Palestinians to do anything, except kill more Jews.

Taken at face value, this is a victory for Colin Powell and the manly warriors of Foggy Bottom, who have never met an Arab they didn't like and who have never seen a concession they don't think the Israelis ought to make. The secretary of state was in Casablanca yesterday, taking tea with the king of Morocco, who in terms of prestige outside Arabia would rank right up there with the king of the Memphis Cotton Carnival, if there still were one. Mr. Powell said after the tea and scones and pickled sheep's eyes were all gone that he had asked His Royal Majesty to tell Yasser Arafat to halt violence against Israel. The king not only didn't get the message, there was a contemptuous message for Colin Powell and the president: The king reiterated Morocco's "total condemnation of the deliberate Israeli military invasion" and the "siege" he said the Israelis had imposed on Yasser Arafat and other leaders of the Palestinian Authority.

Not only that, he offered helpful instruction in how Mr. Powell could be a better and more effective secretary of state. Why had Mr. Powell stopped first in Morocco instead of doing something about the Jews first? "Don't you think it would be more important to go to Jerusalem first?"

The suspicion persists that surely none of this should be taken at face value. The president is saying the things to Israel the script calls for, but the president and most of his inner circle know better even if Colin Powell, ever the man to walk softly and offer the stick to the adversary, does not. The president's speech last week, in which he scolded Israel for trying to save itself while praising Israel for trying to save itself, is said to have gone through draft after draft before he finally delivered a speech that confused everyone. Karl Rove understands how the president's popularity he hit 82 percent again yesterday in one poll could dissolve quickly if the famous war on terrorism continues to unravel as it has over the past fortnight.

Mr. Rove, who is paid to worry not only about the crucial Jewish vote in Florida but the evangelical Christian vote elsewhere, insisted that the president blame Arafat without mercy, but the secretary of state has no domestic constituency to fret about. He is fearful of offending the Muslims in general and the Arabs in particular, and insisted that the language be softened to make it palatable to mealy mouths. He wanted the president to say that Palestine's only export, suicide bombers, is not necessarily the "creation" of Yasser Arafat, merely that he "largely" created the carnage. Such learned haggling over what the definition of "is" is sometimes takes up the entire workday at the highest levels of the State Department.

Letting Mr. Powell have his way this time, pandering to the Palestinians by attempting to make the Israelis go home and wait to be killed by the next suicide-bomber attack, could be a way of shutting him up once and for all. If he can make peace, or even "peace," it will be his own triumph. But if he doesn't, the failure will be all his.

Of course, making peace on Palestinian terms is a recipe for more terrorism, probably right here in America. When it happens we'll all wonder how it happened. The intifada is proving that terrorism works that in the boast of one of Yasser Arafat's Fatah lieutenants, the 98-pound Palestinian girl with 20 pounds of sophisticated explosives taped around her waist is "our F-16." And if it works in Gaza City, it will work in New York City, or Kansas City, or any other city between those two oceans we once thought insulated us from the deadly follies of the rest of the world.

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