Now that American forces have crushed Iraq in three weeks, the United States enjoys in the Middle East what's politely known as leverage. The Bush administration has cast its gaze most intently on Syria, hoping to extract hiding Iraqi officials and, perhaps, weapons.
But the greatest opportunity lies not in changing the behavior of potential foes but forcefully nudging friends, namely Israel, to do what needs to be done and that's to restart a constructive process that will bring peace to Jewish and Palestinian states. No single event would better protect American shores from terrorist threats in the long run.
No one quite imagines marching U.S. troops into the West Bank to remove Israeli settlements and hunt down Palestinian bombers and snipers. Tough, relentless diplomacy is the answer. A road map has already been carefully drawn by Europe, Russia and the United Nations requiring a series of parallel steps leading first to a provisional Palestinian state and a final agreement by 2005.
There's no mystery to what needs to happen: An early and straightforward exchange of nearly all the land Israel has occupied in Gaza and the West Bank since 1967 for a guaranteed and comprehensive peace. That includes a viable Palestinian democracy and a secure Israel recognized by its neighbors, especially terrorist feeders like Syria and Iran.
Star Tribune, Minneapolis
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