Osama's latest outrage has irrevocably altered the picture here and in the Middle East. For the Palestinians, the jig may be up.
As President Bush seeks to form a coalition of countries against terrorism, he encounters his biggest obstacles in the Arab/Muslim world.
Congressional Democrats, echoing leftists everywhere, worry that military action will inflame radical wrath against moderate Arab regimes - and never mind that moderate Arab regime, with none readily coming to mind, may be an oxymoron. So as not to create unrest in countries overseen by those regimes, all of them autocratic and undemocratic, the administration insistently includes zero Arab/Muslim troops in the allied force. And what do even tentatively pro-Western Arab regimes perceive as the paramount problem with the United States? Ah, yes. The United States abides tolerance of Israeli violence against Palestinians. In short, the United States backs Israel.
During the past three decades, through conventional military conflicts and urban guerrilla wars called intifadas, American efforts have sought to settle things in Palestine - for instance: the Rogers Plan (1969), Camp David I (1979), the Reagan Plan (1982), the Oslo Accords (1993), Camp David II and the Mitchell Plan (2000). The aim of each has been the trading of Israeli land for Palestinian promises of recognition and peace.
And of course each has failed.
The current intifada, now a year old, has cost 800 Palestinian and Israeli lives (the first, in the late 1980s, cost 300). Last year Ehud Barak, Israel's Jimmy Carter, proposed giving away half of Israel plus the Golan Heights. Yasser Arafat, whom Israel's Abba Eban has described as one who never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity, said Barak's offer was insufficient and so launched Intifada II, complete with precursors of the suicide bombings Osama has brought to the United States.
These suicide bombings, supported in polls by 75 percent of Palestinians, have congealed the fear of Israelis and united them as rarely before - just as Osama has united Americans as no one else since Hitler. Israeli voters have replaced their Jimmy Carter with their Ronald Reagan (Ariel Sharon), who regards boss Yasser as the terrorist goon that he is. When Osama struck, Bush II forced Sharon to agree to a cease-fire with the Palestinians, a cease-fire that so far has seen about 30 dead and 300 wounded - just as, in 1991, Bush I compelled the Israelis not to retaliate against Saddam Hussein's 39 Scuds dispatched to Israel. Neither time has the Israeli military been allowed to join the U.S.-led coalition out of fear of offending sensitive Arabs.
This time, though, it is OK for the United States to seek the support of terror sponsors Iran and Syria. And this time, the ever-moderate Saudis have warned the United States to instruct the Israelis not to go after Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - all of them anti-Israeli terrorist groups - if the United States wants the Saudis to play ball against Osama, which they have not yet said publicly they will do. Bush has complied, and has tried to confirm himself in the Saudis' good graces by becoming the first president to declare his support for an eventual Palestinian state "so long as the right of Israel to exist is respected." Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, the voice of the anti-terror coalition, echoed President Bush regarding a Palestinian state last week.
The gritty Sharon said something similar several days prior to Bush's statement: "Israel wants to give the Palestinians what no one else gave them before, the possibility of forming a state." Yet following Bush's statement, Sharon issued Bush a haunting warning of his own:
"Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense. ... Don't repeat the terrible mistakes of 1938, when the enlightened democracies in Europe decided [at Munich] to sacrifice Czechoslovakia for a comfortable, temporary solution. [Israel] will not be Czechoslovakia."
The Israelis have been fighting the terror war certainly since the 1967 conventional war in which - attacked by the Arabs yet again - they won again convincingly.
Yasser is not incompetent but malign. He and his fanatics are principal functionaries in the terror network. Suicide bombings in Israel originated in the territory he controls. His PLO participated with (for instance) Spain's murderous ETA at the annual conference of Northern Ireland's deadly Sinn Fein, which itself has been "advising" anti-government rebels in Colombia. Syria, Libya and Iran fund Islamist terror groups Yasser says he cannot control.
Yasser directs the Palestinian Authority, which prints anti-Israeli hatred in school texts, trains Palestinian youths in guerrilla tactics, encourages the spewing of hate in mosques, coordinates the bombing of pizzerias, and organizes joyous celebrations of the murder of 6,000 in the reduction of the World Trade Center to smithereens.
It's a genuine question how much more of this terror war even the resolute Israelis can take - or how much more they should be asked to. Violence, sniping and atrocities persist, with Israelis and Palestinians in virtual urban guerrilla war. Yet maybe the hour is approaching, maybe the signs are there in the statements by Bush and Sharon, when Sharon declares in effect:
"OK, Yasser. Time's up. Game's over. Here's your Palestinian state. It's all yours. Indeed, we're the first country to recognize it, and President Bush says America gladly will be the second.
The state will consist of a consolidated version of certain lands occupied by Palestinians following the conclusion of the 1967 war. We will move Israelis out and we will move into the new Palestinian state Palestinians living elsewhere on Israeli lands. Except for perhaps a corridor or two in and out, around this state we will build on Israeli territory - and patrol - a mile-wide no-man's-land buffer, the better for Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in the peace we all want.
Two peoples, two states - one Israeli, one Palestinian. This is ours. You fought, you lost. What's left is yours, essentially a benevolent refashioning of the lands remaining to you at the end of all the losing wars you have launched against us - wars responsible for so much misery, maiming, and death.
Congratulations. Peace, brother. Make love, not war.
And have a nice day."
Would such an entity mark a capitulation to terror? On the contrary, it would recognize the reality that neither side can prevail under the operative rules. Indeed, it would remove the ostensible cause of Yasser's war (the lack of a Palestinian state), and might well mark the first victory in the worldwide war against terror that President Bush has declared.
And then perhaps the moderate Arab regimes would rejoice in the enlistment of the Israelis in the war to nail Osama et al.