Originally created 05/02/04

Broker sane Mideast solution

There is plenty of blame for all parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the United States. I wish The Augusta Chronicle had chosen - for once - to offer a forum for reasoned discussion instead of praising Israel's assassination of Hamas leaders.

Hamas' use of terror is indefensible, but its position in the Palestinian community is complicated. As in other places, Hamas is an armed group that moved into the vacuum left when "legitimate" government was destroyed or, in the Palestinian case, prevented from forming.

Hamas acquired tremendous influence by providing food, health care and schools for Palestinians left destitute by the decades-long conflict. Like it or not, people are inclined to feel gratitude and even loyalty to those who make possible their day-to-day survival, no matter how terrible their benefactors' other actions.

Similarly, in Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr's supporters provide food, employment and some security to poor Shiites in Baghdad whose plight, bad under Saddam, has worsened since the U.S. invasion. Ensuring people's basic survival gained al-Sadr a large enough following to enable him to challenge the U.S. occupation, despite the fact that he does not represent the majority of Iraqis.

Killing Hamas leaders does not ensure that "moderates" will take their place. Israeli President Ariel Sharon and the Bush administration have done nothing to promote the cause of moderation among Palestinians. Mr. Bush's failure to even acknowledge the Palestinians in accepting Mr. Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza destroyed U.S. credibility as an "honest broker."

As long as Messrs. Bush and Sharon try to impose solutions instead of negotiate them, the violence will continue. Remove Hamas and another group will embrace terror. Israel's response will involve not the "precision kill" The Chronicle so ghoulishly praised, but more deaths of innocent bystanders, which is the usual case.

Susan Yarborough, Augusta


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