WASHINGTON--This cannot go on.
Massacre at a Tel Aviv disco: 21 teens dead, dozens maimed and wounded. Mass murder at a Jerusalem pizzeria: 15 dead, more than 100 maimed and wounded. Suicide bombing at a Haifa cafe: 20 injured. Daily gunfire, drive-by shootings, mortar attacks. And endless incitement from the official Palestinian media, whose TV kids' show features the song, ``When I wander into Jerusalem, I will become a suicide bomber.''
This cannot go on. No country can sustain what Israel is sustaining: one massacre of Columbine proportions after another.
The diplomats prattle about how there is no military solution to this conflict. Tell that to Yasser Arafat. He began this war a year ago after rejecting Israel's offer of a Palestinian state with its capital in a shared Jerusalem. Why? Because with this terror campaign he intends to bring a bleeding, demoralized Israel to its knees, ready to surrender, the way it surrendered last year to Hezbollah when Israel unilaterally abandoned its Lebanese security zone in the face of guerrilla war.
Prime Minister Sharon is flailing about for a strategy. He has tried three. After the disco bombing he did nothing, hoping that world sympathy would bring outside pressure on Arafat to stop. Arafat's ensuing cease-fire was as worthless as the 68 cease-fires he signed while terrorizing Lebanon a quarter-century ago.
After the pizzeria massacre and cafe bombing, Sharon ordered brief, entirely bloodless incursions into PLO territory. A momentary pinprick.
And finally, he has ordered the deliberate targeting of those directing the terror campaign. But counterterrorism cannot stop the war. The war comes from the top. The relative calm that Arafat imposes when cornered or fearful, especially immediately after a terrorist attack, demonstrates (to even the most naive) who is running the show.
There is only one way this war will stop. The scenario would go like this:
A lightning and massive Israeli attack on every element of Arafat's police state infrastructure--the headquarters and commanders of his eight(!) security services, his police stations, weapons depots, training camps, communications and propaganda facilities (radio, TV, government-controlled newspapers)--with a simultaneous attack on the headquarters and leadership of Arafat's Hamas and Islamic Jihad allies.
Arafat has given Israel war; he will now receive it. He either flees (as he did Jordan when trying to overthrow King Hussein in 1970) or is deported back to Tunis (as he was from Lebanon in 1982).
Israel does not reoccupy Palestinian cities. Israeli troops stay only the few days necessary to (1) begin building a wall of separation between Palestinian and Israeli territory and (2) evacuate the more far-flung Israeli settlements.
With a new border consolidated, Israel withdraws.
In the current bloodshed, not a single suicide bomber has come from Gaza. Why? Because there already is a wall separating Gaza from Israel. Palestinians have lobbed mortars over it, but it is difficult to send suicide bombers through it. Such a wall built between the rest of Palestine and Israel is the only way to ensure the reduction of violence that everyone says they want.
Strike and expel. Abandon settlements and consolidate lines. Build the wall. And then? And then wait.
Wait for a Palestinian generation that will sign a peace treaty that it intends to live by. That really accepts a Jewish state as its neighbor, that really forswears violence. These are all explicit, written promises given by Arafat at that lachrymose festival of deception and delusion, the Oslo peace signing on the White House lawn in September 1993. He violated every single one.
Israel might have to wait decades for a genuine ``peace partner." When that day comes, the wall comes down and the New Middle East dawns. But until then, a lightning strike and a high wall are the only way.
Will Sharon do it? I am doubtful. His government still depends on the very Israeli left that trusted Arafat and brought Israel to its current crisis. But if he won't, then the next government will. There is no other way for Israel, short of national suicide.
The real question is: Will the Bush administration stand in the way of the only way out? The signs are not good. When Israel responded to the pizzeria massacre by taking over a few empty PLO buildings--no injuries, no deaths--the State Department denounced this as an Israeli ``escalation.'' Imagine how panicked the State Department will be at the first sign of a (BEG ITAL)serious
For America, stopping Israel would be foolishness in the extreme. We have one overriding objective in the area: nonviolence. Washington has no idea how to get there. Israel does.
We must allow Israel to defeat terrorism. If we do not, we are sentencing the region to endless war--and ourselves to endless crises.