September 11 and Arab-Israeli Peace

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The current war on terrorism creates a great opportunity to advance the Arab-Israeli peace process.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, some argued that the most effective way to prevent future attacks would be to address the root causes of terrorism, notably the Palestinian issue. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon indeed became alarmed that in its attempts to build a wide coalition, one that includes as many Arab and Muslim states as possible, the United States might "appease" the Arabs. It would do so by sacrificing Israel's interests.

Osama bin Laden, for his part, is using the Palestinian issue for his war against America and the West, to appear as the great savior of the suppressed Palestinians much as Saddam Hussein tried to do a decade ago.

"Appeasement" of bin Laden and his associates would be fruitless. These fanatics are not trying to influence the fine details of an Arab-Israeli peace. They planned their horrific actions well before the recent collapse of the peace process. Peace in the Middle East is their great enemy, which will deprive them of a great issue to mobilize money and support for their war against America and Arab regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. There is no way any peace agreement can satisfy their demands, because they wish Israel not to exist at all.

Israeli worries about coalition deals with Arab states behind its back are understandable and such deals have to be avoided. However, a more forceful U.S.engagement in the peace process, which will result in security for Israel and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state alongside it, is a key interest of both the United States and Israel. All the better if such an outcome will "appease" the mode...

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...endations about confidence-building measures should be a first step in reviving the peace process one year after it collapsed.

To be sure, the assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister by Palestinians militants on Wednesday poses a major threat to this opportunity to promote peace.

While restraining Israel, the United States and the international community should take advantage of the current situation to exert very heavy pressure on Arafat to crack down decisively on his radicals so that the terrorism against Israel will finally stop.

Suppressing the militants is a prerequisite not only for reviving the peace process but for avoiding a dangerous escalation of violence. Moreover, disarming the radicals is an essential condition for building a viable Palestinian state able to live peacefully alongside Israel.
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