A Trusteeship for Palestine?

ROAD MAP TO NOWHERE

The second Palestinian intifada will soon enter its fourth year. Both Israelis and Palestinians have become exhausted by the worst violence in the history of their bloody conflict, and yet it continues. Palestinian terror attacks and Israeli military responses are dragging both communities deeper and deeper into the abyss.

Still, as President George W. Bush has averred, the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq would create an opportunity for broader Middle East peacemaking. Iran and Syria, fearing that they might be the next targets, would feel pressure to reduce their support for Hamas, Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and Hezbollah -- the terrorist organizations that have done so much to fuel the current conflict. With a new regime in Iraq emerging under American tutelage, the balance of power in the Arab world might shift decisively in favor of the more moderate states of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, which are committed to Arab-Israeli peace. The elimination of one of the terrorists' patrons and the lowered profile of others might further lessen the appeal of terror for a Palestinian community already coming to the realization that violence has been nothing short of disastrous for its cause and circumstances. And Israelis suffering from an unprecedented number of civilian casualties, a worsening economic crisis, and a war-weary reserve army would welcome some deus ex machina from the war in Iraq to get their country out of its current rut.

Should President Bush decide to seize such a moment of diplomatic ripening and try his hand at Arab-Israeli peacemaking, he would find that a remarkable consensus has formed around his own vision of a two-state solution to the conflict. The president first articulated this vision in November 2001, when he called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state living in peace beside a secure Israel, and he elaborated on the idea in June 2002, when he added that such a state had to be democratic. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has endorsed this vision, as have majorities of the Israeli and Palestinian publics, and the international community believes in it.

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