George W. Bush is not known for his ability to produce miracles. Yet that is precisely what it would take for the president to successfully resurrect the Oslo peace process, destroyed by the ongoing Palestinian war of attrition against Israel. Leaked details of his pending Israel-Palestinian peace proposal indicate that he is basically suggesting a dressed-up rehash of the failed Oslo accords, with a few modifications. This begs an important question: If the Oslo formula didn't work for Bill Clinton in the 1990s, why should it work for Bush in 2002?
The president's proposal will apparently be based on the widely held assumption that what the Palestinians lack, and urgently need, is a state to call their own. If they get their own country, so the popular wisdom goes, they will settle down and stop blowing-up Israeli buses, restaurants, Passover meals, etc. All Israel has to do is withdraw from the territory it captured from Jordan and Egypt in 1967, and all will be well.
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This was exactly the thinking that formed the bedrock of the shattered Oslo process. Indeed in fulfillment of that process, Israel years ago turned over nearly 40 percent of Judea and Samaria to Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority – an area encompassing over 90 percent of the Palestinians living in those disputed zones. More than 80 percent of the Gaza Strip was also delivered to Arafat's full and direct control in 1994. In effect, the Palestinian leader has had a state – albeit without all of the trappings of statehood – since the mid-1990s.
And what did the PLO chairman do with his quasi Palestinian state-let? He allowed it to become a terrorist haven of horrific proportions. His various "intelligence" agencies and 35,000 or so paramilitary police force did precious little to quash Hamas militants and others violently opposed to the Oslo accords. What has changed in recent months to make George Bush think that a Silly-Puttied Oslo rehash will lead to a different result now?
Hamas leaders are quite clear in stating their ultimate goals: Israel must be wiped off of the Mideast map and replaced by an Islamic-ruled state. Just read their founding charter, formulated in 1988, if you have any doubts. The group is fully supported by the Damascus-based Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia that holds sway over southern Lebanon, by the Mideast's leading democrat, Saddam Hussein, by the worldwide al-Qaida terrorist network, and by many others. Does President Bush have any serious indications that these folks have recently become closet Zionists and are thus preparing to abandon their violent jihad struggle?
Maybe George W. is expecting that Saddam at least will be six feet under by the time the proposed Palestinian state takes to the world stage next year. No doubt such a development would help prod Palestinian leaders to move in a more moderate direction. But unless his pending military campaign against Iraq also targets Iran and Syria, there is little reason to think that Hamas and friends will be any less determined to destroy Israel in 2003. Nor should anyone expect that a "reformed" Palestinian government – with or without Arafat – will make the radicals change their minds.
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Some of the president's advisers still seem to think that dousing the Israeli-Palestinian flames is essential before the military showdown with Saddam can begin. The same argument was made last fall when war preparations were being finalized against Taliban and al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan. In the end, the pressure on Israel to help America's war effort by making a hasty retreat to the peace table – despite ongoing terror attacks – only encouraged Palestinians to carry out more atrocities. Tuesday's Jerusalem bus massacre suggests a repeat performance is well under way.
If the president really wants to make America's Islamic enemies tremble, he should allow his ally Israel to finish the job its leaders started after the hideous Passover slaughter. If terrorism is terrorism no matter what the real or imagined injustices that inspire it, as Bush has so clearly stated, then Ariel Sharon should be allowed to pummel Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah strongholds wherever they are, even if that means air strikes on Damascus.
If the leader of the Free World wants such action deferred until he is able to go after Saddam, then he better get on with it … for the blood of slain Israeli innocents is crying out ever louder from the biblical Promised Land. And Israel's God just might be listening.