Jewish World Review April 10, 2002 / 29 Nisan, 5762

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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How to guarantee an infinite Mideast war | The Middle East is on the brink of war. Pundits and political leaders around the world are concerned.

Acts of Palestinian terror, no matter how egregious or how frequent, can never bring the Middle East to the brink of war, because for most world political and opinion leaders, the killing of Jews is of small consequence. There are calls for a halt to violence only when Israelis retaliate.

During the cold war, there was reason to suppose an Arab-Israeli war could spark a third world war. In those days, Israel was a client of the United States. The radical Arab states were clients of the Soviet Union. If the proxies got into a tiff, the conflict could spread to the principals.

The closest we came to this was during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, when Egyptians, in a surprise attack, dealt a severe blow to Israeli defense forces. Only an airlift of M-60 tanks from U.S. bases in Germany kept Israel from being overrun.

Once its initial battle losses had been replaced, Israel quickly regained the initiative, routing Egyptian and Syrian forces. Israeli troops were poised to take Cairo and Damascus.

The Soviets were willing to permit the United States to restore the status quo ante. But they threatened to intervene to prevent a decisive Israeli victory. So we prevailed upon the Israelis to stop short of humiliating their enemies.

Now the cold war is over. Russia is a shadow of what we thought the Soviet Union was, and is more or less an ally in the war on terror. Radical Arabs have lost their sponsor. And Egypt has, after a fashion, switched sides.

There is no longer good reason to suppose a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians would spread.

Another consequence of the Yom Kippur war was the Arab oil embargo. But the oil "weapon" has lost much of its bang.

We are more dependent upon foreign oil now than we were then, but less dependent on oil from the Persian Gulf, since new sources elsewhere have been developed. And Arab governments have become so dependent upon oil revenues that the loss of them would harm Arabs more than the loss of their oil would harm us.

Expect price hikes instead. Oil-producing Arab states would rather line their pockets while expressing solidarity with the Palestinians than empty their pockets while expressing solidarity with the Palestinians. But market forces place a limit on how high prices can go.

So if the Israelis crush the Palestinians, there will be a howling from Arab mobs, but little else. And Israel must inflict a severe military defeat upon the Palestinians if there ever is to be peace.

Most Palestinians believe they can destroy Israel. The Palestinians think they are winning, and think things can't get worse for them than they are now. They must be disabused of these notions.

Palestinians have good reasons for thinking they are winning. Before the Passover massacre, Palestinian terror was met with Israeli concessions, not Israeli force. Palestinian terror evokes expressions of sympathy from Europe, not words of condemnation. Palestinian terror gets Yasser Arafat on evening newscasts, while peace would doom him to obscurity.

Israeli Defense Forces have been rounding up the terror suspects Arafat promised to arrest but didn't, and destroying weapons caches. This will do more to protect Israelis from suicide bombings than any agreement diplomats make.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would like to send Arafat into exile. His intelligence services tell him this would be a bad idea. Perhaps the Israelis will leave him as a figurehead, while arresting his subordinates.

But only when the old Palestinian leadership has been swept away can a new Palestinian leadership emerge.

Once Palestinian attitudes have been adjusted, a settlement very likely can be reached along the lines proposed by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in the summer of 2000.

But Palestinians will not tread the path of peace until they've been convinced that they can't get what they want through suicide bombings.

Negotiations before this occurs are, as we have seen, doomed to failure. The Mitchell Report, the Tenet Plan, and the Zinni "bridge" have all collapsed. The "peace process" has failed. It's time to give war a chance.

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© 2002, Jack Kelly