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Jewish World Review May 23, 2001/ 1 Sivan 5761

Richard Z. Chesnoff

Richard Z. Chesnoff
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Dubyah must act in Mideast --
PRESIDENT BUSH, please call the Middle East!

True, Bush made it clear back in January that he had no intention of involving himself as directly as his predecessor did in attempts at regional peacemaking. And L-rd only knows, Dubya is no Bill Clinton.

But as the report released yesterday by former Sen. George Mitchell's commission makes eminently clear, Middle East violence "will keep on getting worse unless the government of Israel and the Palestinians take swift and decisive actions."

Unfortunately, there's no sign of that happening.

The Palestinians are not going to halt the violence they began when they launched their intifadeh in September. And the Israelis are not going to turn the other cheek.

With a rising wave of Palestinian terrorism provoking a daily upsurge in Israel's tough reactions, the Mideast is in a dangerous downward spiral whose bottom point is full-scale war.

Faced with that disaster, it's not enough for the White House simply to call on both sides to implement the Mitchell commission's recommendations for an immediate ceasefire, a Palestinian crackdown on terrorism and a freeze on Israeli settlement growth. It is not enough to send Secretary of State Powell to read the riot act to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

And it is not helpful to have Vice President Cheney appear on the Sunday talk shows to tsk-tsk about Israel's responding to the latest suicide bombing by sending F-16s to hit Palestinian terrorist targets. What would the U.S. do if a neighboring government systematically failed to prevent terrorists from slipping across the border to bomb our shopping malls?

What's needed here is for the President to take matters directly in hand. If the White House wants to save the Middle East peace process from total disintegration, Bush has two choices:

Summon Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to presidentially led talks in Washington.

Take a dramatic break from the domestic agenda and head for the Mideast to knock some heads together.

Only the prestige and power of the American presidency can prevent further disintegration. And only the U.S. can stop what I believe is Arafat's real game plan: to create such havoc that an international body will be forced to come to "protect" the Palestinians.

It seems increasingly clear that this is what Arafat has up his sleeve. Believing the White House uninterested in any further direct involvement, the one-time terrorist chief has decided to fill the vacuum with a force he perceives as friendlier to the Palestinians say, the European Union or a United Nations commission made up of "neutral" nations that are always ready to blame Israel or at least prepared to equalize guilt between Palestinian terrorists and Israel's legitimate defense forces.

Arafat has been calling for just such international intervention, not coincidentally, since the beginning of this latest intifadeh. He sees it as a way to Palestinian independence on his terms.

For all his crocodile tears, the emir of Gaza doesn't care how many Palestinians are killed in the process or how many children are maimed as long as he achieves what he wants.

And what is it that Arafat wants? Not a Palestinian state that will live in peace and harmony with its Israeli neighbors, but one that will be an interim step toward his ultimate goal: Israel's complete destruction.

It's up to Bush to deny him his goal.

JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report and a columnist at the NY Daily News. 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

© 2001, N. Y. Daily News