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Jewish World Review April 14, 2003/ 12 Nisan, 5763

Richard Z. Chesnoff

Richard Z. Chesnoff
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Victory in Iraq may spur Mideast peace |
The shock waves from the downfall of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein are echoing across the Middle East, but nowhere louder than in the Holy Land. Rest assured: Once the war is fully won, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair will turn their attention to that other thorny regional problem - the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Both coalition leaders have announced a road map for Mideast peace. Its immediate political goal is to ease the shock of a shaken Arab world. But its centerpiece is the creation of an independent Palestinian state living side by side with a secure and Arab-accepted Israel by 2005.

I know. We've heard that song before - especially after the 1991 Gulf War. But this time, coalition peacemaking could make it work if the U.S. demands some serious shifts in attitude and immediate actions by Israelis and Arabs alike.

As the Washington Institute for Near East Policy concludes in a new white paper on winning the Mideast peace, post-Iraq, "No U.S. initiative can succeed in circumstances in which all sides wait for the others to act or ... for the United States to act for them."

In other words, the coalition may be able to rid Iraq of Saddam, but it has to avoid the temptation to shove peace and prosperity down the Iraqis' throats - the Iraqis have to work for it. The same is true for the Arabs and Israelis. The U.S. may be able to show the way, but Washington can't drive the car.

For the Palestinians to navigate the road map successfully, they must put an immediate end to terrorism. As the Washington Institute points out, targeting Israeli civilians "has raised considerable doubt as to whether the goal of Palestinian uprising has been to achieve statehood beside Israel or in place of Israel."

New Palestinian leadership must operate on the principle of recognizing Israel's moral legitimacy as a Jewish state with a right to sovereign independence in the Middle East. Ditto for the Arab states that must stop financing terror and defining it as legitimate self-defense. The Palestinians also have to cut the cancer of corruption and totalitarian brutality from their administration and replace it with a serious, viable government. Dinosaur dictator Yasser Arafat has approved the creation of a Palestinian prime minister with real power. He and his cabinet must establish an open, transparent, accountable government.

Once the Palestinians have a new leadership that undeniably recognizes Israel's right to exist, the Israelis will have to take meaningful steps of their own.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has publicly committed himself to what he calls "painful concessions" to achieve peace. Among the most logical: increased humanitarian efforts on behalf of Palestinian civilians and ending new settlement activity that can sabotage the coalition's vision of peacemaking.

But no one should expect Israel do anything until the Palestinians totally and irrevocably reject terror and violence as tools of policy. Once that happens, Israel must reach out publicly and dramatically to its Palestinian neighbors.

Gulf War I led to the historic beginnings of Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. With the right attitude, Gulf War II could lead to their fulfillment.

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JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report, a columnist at the NY Daily News and a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Demoracies. A two-time winner of the Overseas Press Club Award and a recipient of the National Press Club Award, he was formerly executive editor of Newsweek International. His latest book, recently updated, is Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe Plundered the Jews and Committed the Greatest Theft in History.

Richard Z. Chesnoff Archives

© 2003, N. Y. Daily News