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Jewish World Review June 16, 2003/ 16 Iyar, 5763

Richard Z. Chesnoff

Richard Z. Chesnoff
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Truce with terrorists is impossible |
Last week, we had a new Mideast road map. This week, it is in tatters. Now where do we go? If the Palestinian spoilers have their way, into a bottomless pit of murder and mayhem.

Within hours of President Bush's Aqaba peace conference, the terrorist organizations of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades launched an unprecedented joint attack that killed four Israelis, setting into motion the avalanche of terror and killing that has followed.

The terrorist groups want no road map because they want no peace. Their ideologies and actions make that eminently clear. They don't seek just the West Bank and Gaza. They want it all - an Islamic state in the totality of Israel and Palestine without any Jewish state whatsoever. It's there in their public declarations.

The idea of calling a truce with these terrorists, as Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas says he wants, is nonsensical. Would the U.S. seek a truce with Al Qaeda? The Israelis understand the limitations of Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen. They suggested that his security forces start by cracking down on terrorists in just one small area of Gaza. The answer was a loud no.

That places Bush in a thorny predicament. There is no option to send in American troops - certainly not now, and not in the future in any other form than as an observer/peacekeeping force. At the same time, the President cannot lose the confidence of the Palestinians and the Arab states, already profoundly suspicious of America.

But by the same token, Bush cannot equate the murderers with the victims. Chastising Israel for attempting to stop the terrorists is wrong. Consider Abdel Aziz Rantisi. He is the Hamas leader whom Israel tried to assassinate the other day, and he is no friend of ours. He is a pediatrician who sends young people out to kill other young people. He has called on Iraqis to murder U.S. soldiers, and he labeled the Columbia space shuttle disaster "part of God's punishment of the U.S."

Bush must demand that Abbas take firm action against all terrorist gangs operating in Palestinian territory. Washington should place sanctions on Arab countries that allow the flow of money to the terrorists and insist that the Arab world clearly agree to Israel's right to a future as a Jewish state.

For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon should continue to cooperate with his new Palestinian counterpart, tear down unlawful outposts and ease Palestinian civilian suffering.

But until the Palestinian leadership actively disowns the terrorists and their goal of extinguishing the Jewish state, the terrorists will have their way: Bush's road map will lead nowhere.

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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.

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