Originally created 04/02/02

Slim hope for peace



Voices are rising on both sides of the Atlantic demanding that President Bush get more personally involved in trying to bring about a cease-fire in the escalating war between Israel and the Palestinians. Even Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat - virtually at the mercy of Israeli troops - is urging that the United States lend him a hand.

But what more can Bush do? His team is well aware of how deeply involved Bill Clinton got in the peace process in the last year of his presidency, only to see it blow up in his face when Arafat rejected the most generous peace offer ever made.

The problem with Arafat as a peace partner is that he either can't or won't control the extremists. And that's apparently been true for several years.

The fact is the peace process has been hijacked by Palestinian extremists who reject the very notion of Israel as a state. They seek to crush it.

The use of suicide bombers to wage war against Israel's civilian population shows Palestinians will go to any lengths. They want war and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is obliging them - using his military might in the West Bank to break up Palestinian terrorists just as the U.S.-led troops routed al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan.

Had Arafat used his security forces to do what Israeli troops are doing now, the "aggression" would not have happened.

Also, it's misleading to say Bush is not engaged in peace efforts. U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni is still in the area, gamely trying to broker truce and he's not without hope.

Sharon and Arafat have at least agreed in principle on the cease-fire formula laid down by CIA Director George Tenet, to be followed by former Senate leader George Mitchell's plan to negotiate a settlement.

With skillful diplomacy, Zinni might persuade some of the Arab nations that offered up their own peace plan last week to put the heat on Palestinian extremists to call off the suicide missions and make Arafat a credible negotiating partner.

Of course, this assumes the Arab League's peace offering was made in good faith, an assumption that may be premature.