Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Many Promises to Fulfill

June 05, 2003

President Bush's intense personal involvement gave a strong shove to Middle East peace this week, pushing Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders to state their intentions. His meeting at Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain produced pledges to halt funding of the terrorist groups killing Israelis. At his meeting Wednesday in Jordan with the prime ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, he won carefully phrased promises from Ariel Sharon to remove some Israeli settlements from occupied territory and from Mahmoud Abbas to work to end Palestinian violence. The meetings offer hope that Palestinians will turn away from 32 months of suicide bombings and Israelis from targeted killings of alleged terrorists.

Agreement on lasting peace seemed closer three years ago, during intensive but ultimately failed efforts by President Clinton. Things slipped far downhill after that. Bush, looking on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as a black hole for good intentions, declined to get involved during his first years in office. Now, having promised British Prime Minister Tony Blair that he would make the effort, Bush has done a good job of applying pressure to both sides to resume negotiations.

One smart move was to vigorously pull in Arab nations. The Arab leaders vowed to combat the "culture of extremism and violence," no matter where it is aimed. It is important that Arabs speak out against terrorists who claim to fight for Palestinian freedom from Israeli occupation.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Wednesday that Abbas had denounced terror repeatedly -- and in Arabic. That's a welcome change from Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, often criticized for speaking peace in English but talking of violence in Arabic. Israeli officials say they believe Abbas is trying, with his limited security forces, to stop attacks and to persuade terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad to end their assaults while he seeks Israeli concessions.

At the summit, Sharon repeated his acceptance of an eventual Palestinian state and said it was not in Israel's interest to govern Palestinians. When he said that last month, he outraged the right wing of his coalition government. Many Palestinians still distrust Sharon, a long-time hard-liner. But if Sharon starts removing settlements from occupied territory, pulls troops out of Palestinian cities and makes it easier for Palestinians to work in Israel, Abbas will have achieved what Arafat could not. If Palestinians see a path to improved lives, popular support is likely to wane for the suicide attacks that make Israeli acceptance of a Palestinian state impossible.

Bush promised to stay involved in the peace process, and Arab leaders, initially doubtful, say they believe him. During Clinton's efforts, it was Arafat whose balk brought a bitter halt to the momentum toward peace. If Arafat stays out of the picture, Bush's continued efforts could have a better end.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|