Jewish World Review Feb. 27, 2002 / 15 Adar, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- "IT would be a new era." That's how one of the top Israeli politicians reacted when I asked him, last week, what the impact of a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq leading to the ouster of Saddam Hussein would be on the increasingly explosive standoff between Israel and the Palestinians. "You should have done it years ago," he said pointedly, aiming a barb at my former boss.
A just, real and sustainable peace in the Middle East will only be possible once the U.S. dismembers the Iraqi regime. Not because Iraq sustains the Palestinian terrorists, but because it is only by making an example of Saddam that we will motivate Hamas and Hezbollah to move toward peace.
Voltaire said it best. He suggests, in "Candide," that from time to time the British find it desirable to shoot an admiral "pour encourager les autres" (to encourage the others).
If America shows the swiftness, ease, thoroughness and finality with which it can dispose of Saddam Hussein for flouting the world's prohibition against the development of weapons of mass destruction, the lesson will not be lost on even the most radical of the Palestinian leaders.
Instead, decisive and aggressive U.S. action will send messages to all the actors in the Middle East and the global terrorist network.
To Iran, it will say: "Be careful or you're next." To Saudi Arabia: "Stop funding terrorism. We're going to win, not them." To the Palestinian terrorists: "Either you settle down and cut a deal or face the consequences." To terrorists around the globe: "We will hunt you down wherever you hide."
But, to Israel, it will also send a message: "We are here, militarily, to stay and will be here to protect you. So, its OK to take risks for peace."
Bill Clinton, in his final months in office, proved that the only obstacle to a peace deal is the unwillingness of the radical Palestinian leaders to make one.
Arafat would have loved to have taken Clinton's terms and his money. The map Clinton drew was the ideal settlement for both sides. The bribe he offered - some accounts put it as high as a $13 billion annual aid payment to the PLO - was in the best tradition of the Camp David accords.
But Arafat couldn't say yes. To do so would have slit even his elusive throat.
Jealous of Arafat's stature and status, the Palestinian radicals constantly attempt to flank him to the left and be more militant and uncompromising than he.
In reality, they are using the war with Israel as a forum within which to compete for leadership of the Palestinian state that lies over the horizon. But Arafat didn't live this long by letting someone else out-demagogue him. He moves to a warlike stance as needed to protect his political base.
But if we disrupt the equilibrium by destroying the Saddam regime, we demonstrate a chilling ability to deter terrorism and its sponsors be they states or gangs or groups.
The Saudi plan, proposed to Tom Friedman and touted on The New York Times' editorial pages, is a chimera. You can't make peace with people that don't want peace. No amount of U.N. intervention can make it happen.
The Palestinian radicals think that the United States is restrained by the timid Europeans and the self-interested Russians from removing Saddam. That was the message they got in 1991.
They know that the need for multilateralism makes a pigmy of the U.S. military might. But if the United States shows that it is willing to act on its own, all bets are off. The lion is loose.
Every day, as I look out of my office window at the Midtown Manhattan skyline, I see a vision of a mushroom cloud dwarfing 9/11 just as the events of that horrible day dwarfed the 1993 car bombing of the World Trade Center.
Those are the stakes. Iraq is the clearest threat. Every nation has a right to defend itself. Unilaterally.
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