- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2002

President Bush has again dispatched Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni to see what Mr. Zinni can do to stop the violence there. The answer is nothing.

Some U.S. officials and the media lament what they call a "cycle of violence" in the region. But in fact, it is war waged against Israel by people who claim it is their religious duty to eradicate that nation and expel every Jew from the land.

Mr. Zinni will succeed (and "success" is open to interpretation) only if Yasser Arafat and his band of murderous men and women decide it is in their interest. Such a step would increase pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to make further concessions, with no guarantee the Palestinians would reciprocate. Mr. Sharon has retaliated for the violence perpetrated against Israelis by suicide bombers and other assaults on Israeli civilians. Such attacks are considered self-defense when American forces perform them thousands of miles away from U.S. soil in Afghanistan, but "provocative" and "escalating the violence" when Israel does it in her own neighborhood.

President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell escalated the rhetoric last week. Speaking of Mr. Sharon, the president said, "I think he recognizes that you can't achieve peace by allowing violence to escalate or causing violence to escalate." Mr. Bush added that he was "deeply concerned" about Israel's "retaliation, the escalation." The secretary of state told a congressional committee: "Sharon has to take a hard look at his policies to see whether they will work. If you declare war against the Palestinians thinking that you can solve the problem by seeing how many Palestinians can be killed, I don't know that that leads us anywhere."

It is not Israel that has either escalated the violence or declared war against the Palestinians. It isn't Israel that has adopted a policy of sending suicide bombers to kill civilians. A statement from Mr. Sharon's office last week notes: "The war Israel finds itself in was forced on it by the Palestinian Authority and its chairman following the Camp David summit in July 2000. Israel never declared war on the Palestinians; Israel is return

ing fire against the terrorist organizations in the framework of its right to self-defense. He who init ated the war has the power to stop it but he continues to prefer the terrorist war."

Precisely.

What America does or doesn't do, or what Israel does or doesn't do, is irrelevant to Mr. Arafat. The United States is sending another $400 million in aid to the Palestinians hoping to buy their favor. Much of the previous aid has never been properly accounted for by Mr. Arafat, but that doesn't stop the flow. Even the European Union, one of Mr. Arafat's best friends, called on the Palestinian Authority in 1999 to explain the disappearance of funds allocated over the previous two years. A confidential EU auditor's report obtained by the London Sunday Times found that wealthy supporters of Mr. Arafat have benefited from aid money intended to house needy Palestinians and that about $20 million earmarked for inexpensive housing for the needy in areas administered by the PA "has been spent without any economic controls and is not recoverable." Still we send them more money. Are we crazy?

Each time Israel has relinquished "occupied" land it had seized for security reasons because of wars launched from that land, it has gotten more war, not peace. Only those in deep denial believe that giving up more land will bring peace.

Since the Camp David meeting between then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, President Clinton and the un-elected Yasser Arafat, the stated and demonstrated policy of Mr. Arafat has been more terror and more war. He could have had 97 percent of his demands met but chose more violence because he wants 100 percent.

If this is war, then the only proper response is to win it. That's the U.S. goal against terrorism this nation. It should also be the Israeli goal. The United States should be supporting Israel and not supposing that a policy of "evenhandedness" and "moral equivalency" is going to make those who hate America and Israel hate less or change their objectives.


Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.


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