Jewish World Review March 18, 2002/ 5 Nisan, 5762

Wesley Pruden

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Persuading a friend to commit suicide | We need the ghost of Emily Post here, or at least the help of Miss Manners. How does one tactfully suggest to a friend that he commit suicide?

Does one assure the intended corpse that "it's nothing personal, old chap, it's just that you're making a lot of unnecessary noise and the neighborhood would be a lot quieter with you not around."

Perhaps one should promise a nice eulogy. "If your family gives you a proper memorial service we'll be happy to say a few kind words over Your Stiffness, unless something else comes up."

Fats Waller (or maybe Fats Domino) said it best: One never knows, do one?

This will be more than an academic exercise if George Bush and his wise men are actually serious about hounding the Israelis, to whom we have made expressions of undying friendship on other occasions, to make a death compact with our dear Arab friends.

When a correspondent asked Mr. Bush at his press conference whether he agreed with Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations, that the Israelis were the bad guys in the drama, the president's reply reeked of moral equivalence, as if he were counseling rival candidates for president of the student body at a seminary for young ladies.

"Well, first of all," he said, "it is important to create conditions for peace in the Middle East. It's important for both sides to work hard to create the conditions of a potential settlement. Our government has provided a security plan that has been agreed to by both the Israelis and the Palestinians called the Tenet plan. And George Mitchell did good work providing a pathway for a political settlement once conditions warranted. Frankly, it's not helpful what the Israelis have recently done in order to create conditions for peace."

"I understand someone trying to defend themselves and to fight terror, but the recent actions aren't helpful."

Indeed the president would understand this, because what the Israelis are doing is exactly what the president is doing, fighting terror in the knowledge that nothing less than national survival is at stake, and both the United States and the Israelis are fighting terror from the same quarter. This is the hard truth that Israel's enemies and, sad to say, some of its friends constantly retreat from, because it is not only hard truth but unpleasant truth.

The good news is that George W. Bush, as he says, understands this, and his harsh scoldings of our only reliable ally in the Middle East were not meant to be taken literally, or even taken at all, but to smooth the way for Dick Cheney, now making a salesman's call through the region trying to sell an expansion of the war into Iraq, and for the luckless Anthony Zinni, the presidential peacemaker who can count his mission a success if he doesn't run into a Palestinian suicide bomber and come home in pieces in a body bag.

We can have only sympathy for the president, and the position events have put him in. Everything he says to chide and scold Israel could be said about America, and the Europeans and the old lefties at home are finding the voice to say it: Give peace a chance. Make love not war. Everybody love one another. Drop Love Bombs, Not Daisycutters.

This president can't be comfortable following the script written by the nancies at the State Department, that the best strategy is to lurch from one broken agreement (Tenet) to another (Mitchell). The man who looked at the Islamist killers on September 11 and did not flinch surely recognizes the script as moonshine. Every time the Palestinians break an agreement we'll just send someone over to write another, and if a lot of innocent people are killed while these worthies are typing out their solutions, well, that's just a risk we'll have to take. It's comfortable enough over here.

The president knows that by urging the Israelis to make foolish concessions, just to improve the noise and comfort level for everyone else, he undercuts his own position in the war on terror. "There can be no peace in a world where differences and grievances become an excuse to target the innocent for murder," the president said at his press conference.

Right on. But which gang of terrorists is he talking about - al Qaeda? Hamas? Fatah? The Palestinians are betting they can eat their cake, and have it, too. With the help of compliant friends and timid allies, they can continue to make solemn agreements, kill innocent women and children and provoke responses that exhaust the patience of the civilized world. Since nobody expects anything of the Palestinians and sympathetic Arab governments, the pressure will only grow on Israel to heel, buckle and die. Then someone can make a pretty speech over the grave.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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