- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2002

Remember all the PR hype that preceded George W. Bush's long-awaited speech on the Mideast a couple of weeks ago? It turned out to contain nothing new. Except for one promising detail. And it would change everything.
In general, the Bush Plan, or rather the Bush restatement, was an updated version of the same formula on which any peace between Israelis and Palestinians must be based come some millennial day: land for peace. George Bush the Younger laid out the terms of the deal, even offering a Provisional State of Palestine, like a carrot on top of a stick:
"The United States of America will support the creation of a Palestinian state, whose borders and certain aspects of its sovereignty will be provisional until resolved as part of a final settlement in the Middle East. And the United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure."
Nothing new there. One American president after another had made much the same offer, then found himself caught up in Yasser Arafat's game, which was to take the land but not deliver the peace.
Why should he? Even as he launched one intifada after another, he was given more land, more authority, more economic aid. This was called the Peace Process. And when it was subverted, it was called the Cycle of Violence, as if it were a flood or an earthquake or some other natural disaster. As if no one ever actually started the violence.
Someone had. Mr. Arafat allowed terrorists to operate freely, even supplying them with ammunition, recruits, money and safe houses. He wasn't about to settle for a state so long as he could maintain a state of war instead.
And the scam worked. You don't have to be an American president to be a sucker. I can remember writing endless columns cheering on Israel's Ehud Barak as he offered to give away half the store. You can want peace so badly you imagine it's almost here. Edward Luttwak, the strategist, could have been diagnosing me:
"It's not a rhetorical exaggeration to speak of a peace psychosis, for that is what psychotics do; they impose their own imaginings on others, persuading themselves in this instance, that, after a lifetime of struggle, Arafat wanted to end his days as a compromising negotiator, rather than as a conqueror."
The psychosis was widespread. There was no reason to believe this president would be any different. Except for one intriguing part of his speech. That's when he said the Palestinians needed "new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror."
Surely George W. Bush wasn't suggesting that Yasser Arafat had to go? Not the Indispensable Man. Hadn't this administration regularly recognized Chairman Arafat as the "chosen leader" of the Palestinians?
But a strange thing happened on the way to the same old futility. This president wasn't going there again. More impressive than the president's speech were some of his comments to reporters afterward. Why, yes, if Yasser Arafat stayed on as terrorist-in-chief, Washington would cut off his water. He said it matter-of-factly. But everything had changed.
The president's comments set the tone for the rest of his administration. Condoleezza Rice, the brains of the outfit, has consistently understood that Mr. Arafat must go if peace is to come. Now she could say so, forcefully.
Colin Powell, the most consistently ignored secretary of state since Thomas Jefferson was advising George Washington, is proving a team player. Now he notes that he warned Mr. Arafat this would happen unless the guerrilla chieftain changed his spots. How was that old terrorist to know the Americans meant it this time?
For now the administration is using a euphemism for dumping Mr. Arafat: promoting democracy. It is of course highly unlikely that any state of Palestine will become the first democracy in the Arab world. But it is possible the administration's message will get through to Palestinians still within the reach of reason, and they will dump him themselves. God knows they have enough reasons to oppression, corruption, chaos, poverty, nigh-endless defeat and occupation.
The Palestinians' choice is clear now: They can have Yasser Arafat or American support, but not both. They can have war or peace, but not both. They can continue to support terror or have a state of their own. But not both. The game is up. America has a new president. And his eyes have opened.


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