- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2002

Israel has assumed a military stance of defense against Palestinian terrorists. To some this seems like a logical step in warding off the horror of Jewish teen-agers being blown apart as they sit down to a pizza in a center square of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.
But it is the stance of war, one initiated by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a former general with the mentality and skill of a George Patton. He will, he assumes, just squash the opponent after which there will be peace with a defeated enemy.
That will not happen. This is not World War II, and there is no military victory. Mr. Sharon's stance is based on a totally false assumption, one that Israel should now understand, especially after a year-and-a-half of the intifada and the increase in Palestinian suicide bombers.
It hasn't always been this way. Israel has had its visionary peacemakers Menachem Begin with Egypt; Yitzhak Rabin, whose peace moves were finished when he was assassinated by a militant Israeli; and Ehud Barak, whose bold overtures for peace were rejected by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who was perhaps frightened of revenge from the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups as well as by his own Fatah militants.
This is a more demanding, more frightening time in the Mideast and peacemakers on both sides must once again come to the fore. But so far Mr. Sharon has shown no inclination to join the previous Israeli statesmen.
It is obvious that America must provide the initiative for peace. The Israelis and Palestinians, who have worked themselves into an orgy of hatred, cannot do it alone. President Bush, who once adopted a Pontius Pilate stance, now understands the need to exercise American power in making peace. He has correctly said that Mr. Sharon's latest military moves "were not helpful," a giant understatement. U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni, a retired Marine Corps general, has laid down the law to Mr. Sharon, insisting on a military withdrawal.
Saudi Arabia has made the most positive suggestion for peace, if sincere. If Israel withdraws to its pre-1967 borders, the Arab world will recognize the existence of the Jewish state. This means Israel will have won the war. Their goal has never been to win more land but to live in peace and be recognized by its neighbors.
But it also means Israel will have to give up its dream of a Greater Israel, which includes ending its colonization of parts of the West Bank. It means 200 "settlements" of 176,000 Israelis scattered throughout the West Bank and Gaza must be abandoned, and the troops protecting them withdrawn. (The Israeli presence is much like having the Soviet Army in the Bronx during the Cold War.)
Of course there has to be negotiations on these broad strokes. The border would have to be adjusted here and there. The Palestianians would need to have a portion of East Jerusalem as the capital of their new state. Arab refugees cannot return to Israel to overwhelm the Jewish population. Israel, with its narrow borders, will need to control some security positions for protection against an external enemy.
But it is a starting point for both sides. If these negotiations fail, it will be incumbent on America and the world community to come up with a solution and using all necessary pressures, impose it on both parties.
Meanwhile, America needs to destroy the Adolf Hitler of the Mideast, Saddam Hussein, as soon as possible, and before he constructs more weapons of mass destruction, even a nuclear bomb. But as the King of Jordan commented the other day, that war may be impossible as long as the Israeli-Palestine conflict continues. Since destroying Saddam is necessary, peace in Israel is an immediate American priority.
The Palestinians are ready, even if Mr. Arafat cannot control further terrorism for the time being. Mr. Sharon, a builder of the Greater Israeli concept, will have to adjust his thinking and learn that military might and occupation will no longer suffice. He will have to cooperate in this grand scheme of peace or be removed by the Israeli people.
This may be the last chance for an absolutely essential peace for Israel, for the Arab world and eventually for the United States.

Martin Gross is a nationally syndicated columnist.


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