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By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist
Copyright 2002, The Boston Globe

April 14, 2002

If the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result, Secretary of State Powell's mission to the Middle East is crazy. "However long the Israeli incursions continue," he said on Thursday, "the problem will still be there. We will still need to go to a negotiating process that will lead to peace." Even for Powell, with his long history of strategic misjudgments, this is insane.

How can Powell still imagine that a "negotiating process" with Yasser Arafat can ever lead to peace? For Arafat and his Palestinian Authority, negotiations are a tool of war -- a mechanism for harvesting their gains from terror and violence. They don't seek negotiations in order to stop the killing, they kill in order to make their negotiations more fruitful. After eight years of a "peace process" that has slaughtered more Israelis than the 1967 war did, it should be clear even to Powell that negotiating with Arafat leads only to bloodshed.

And forcing Israel to back away from its current war will lead only to bloodshed, too. Last Tuesday, yielding to Bush administration pressure, Israel pulled its troops out of the West Bank cities of Tulkarm and Qalqilya. Forty-eight hours later, eight Israelis were murdered and 22 were wounded when a suicide bomber exploded a bus near Haifa. The terrorist had entered Israel by way of -- Tulkarm.

Powell is not alone, of course, in demanding an Israeli pullback. "The whole world is demanding that Israel withdraw," lectures Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general. "I don't think the whole world, including the friends of the Israeli people and government, can be wrong."

But the whole world can be wrong. It was wrong in 1981, when Israel bombed Saddam Hussein's nuclear-weapons reactor in Osirak. The death toll Israel prevented with that daring mission is incalculable, yet the unanimous reaction was one of outrage and scorn.

Well, this is another Osirak moment. Far from being an impediment to the war against international terrorism, the battle in the West Bank is a frontline in that war. Unless Israel demolishes Arafat's mass-murder machine, unless his hellish "martyrdom" cult is shut down, it will only be a matter of time before suicide bombers are detonating themselves in the markets and cafes of the West.

The United States did not spend eight years negotiating with Mullah Omar and the Taliban. President Bush gave them one chance to cooperate and hand over Osama bin Laden; when they refused, they were destroyed. Arafat and his lieutenants, by contrast, have been given chance after chance to prove their peaceful bona fides. What they have proven instead is that they are liars and conscienceless killers. If America after Sept. 11 had the right to obliterate the Taliban, Israel has the right to obliterate the Palestinian Authority.

The history of this conflict is long and complicated, but its moral dimensions now are clear-cut.

One side sends its soldiers to wipe out suicide bombers. The other side sends suicide bombers to wipe out diners at a Passover seder.

One side publishes maps showing how Israel and a Palestinian state can coexist. The other side publishes maps on which Israel doesn't exist.

One side apologizes when its explosives kill the wives and children of the terrorists it targeted. The other side targets wives and children.

One side was grief-stricken on Sept. 11 and declared a national day of mourning. The other side danced in the streets and distributed candies in celebration.

One side has never deployed a suicide bomber in its 54 years of existence. The other side has deployed more than 40 in the past 12 months alone.

One side developed a mandatory "peace curriculum" to prepare its children to live in peace next to a Palestinian state. The other side steeps its children in hate, extolling suicide bombers as "martyrs" they should emulate and operating summer camps to train them for jihad.

One side is an unshakable ally of the United States and fully backs our war against global terrorism. The other side is armed and financed by Iraq, Iran, and Syria, three of the world's most notorious terrorist states.

One side repeatedly gave up land for peace. The other side took the land and made war.

This is not the time for peace missions and negotiations. The way to end the war in the West Bank is not to make Israel retreat but to let it fight its way to a decisive victory. The "peace process" was the cause of this war; now it will take a war to bring peace. Israel should be encouraged to crush the Palestinians' terrorist network, destroy the Palestinian Authority, demilitarize the territories, and banish Arafat forever. Only then will the Palestinians be free. And only then will it be possible for them to detoxify their poisoned society, choose decent and responsible leaders, and join with Israel in crafting, at long last, a genuine and lasting peace.

Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe
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