Jewish World Review March 11, 2002/ 27 Adar, 5762

Wesley Pruden

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Riding off again to process 'peace' | COLIN POWELL may be the most courageous man in George W.'s inner circle. Which figures, since he's one of the few who went to the inconvenience of putting on the country's uniform, and late of night, when the house grows still and he is alone with a soldier's memories, he hears the ghostly echoes of the guns of a distant war.

The secretary of state lectures Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians, urging them to act civilized even if they aren't, reminding him that blowing apart women and children as they emerge from school or synagogue is really not the way real men demonstrate valor and manly courage.

The Palestinian leader, he says, "has to do more, can do more, must do more."

Then, in the spirit of moral equivalence, he lectures Ariel Sharon on the necessity of remembering that it's not important to do as America does, but to do as America says do. Just because America is resolved to do whatever it takes to survive doesn't mean a threatened ally, such as, for example, Israel, should think it has the right to do whatever it takes to survive.

"If you declare war on the Palestinians and think you can solve the problem by seeing how many Palestinians can be killed," he told a congressional hearing this week, in a message clearly intended for Mr. Sharon, "I don't know that that leads us anywhere."

This takes considerable bravery, and a willingness to make sacrifices, because it makes Mr. Powell look like a man who can't make up his mind, a man who gives wishy-washy a bad name. Anyone who knows him could, and would, tell you that he knows better. He has cheerfully accepted the role assigned to him by the president, who then can continue to talk mostly tough about terrorism wherever anyone finds it. Better a wishy-washy secretary of state than a wishy-washy president.

The president's dispatch of the luckless Anthony Zinni back to the Middle East last night only demonstrates how desperate everyone, including George W. Bush and his men (and women), is to stop the spiraling violence in what was once regarded as the Holy Land. "There are no assurances," Mr. Bush said as he sent Mr. Zinni on his way. "That's not going to prevent our government from trying." The president's gloomy assessment is soundly based: Mr. Zinni was brought home weeks ago because there was no prospect that he could do anything to help, and now he's going back with bleaker prospects.

Nevertheless, this is no small victory for the Palestinians and the Arab troublemakers who have been on the president's case to impose a settlement - a settlement they would have no intention of abiding by even as they would expect Israel to abide by it. That's the story of "peace" in the Middle East. Heads the Palestinians win, tails the Israelis lose.

The Israelis are becoming demoralized, and why not? The more they respond to violence, to punish those who kill their women and children, the more provocative the Palestinian terrorists become, fortified by the eagerness of the Europeans and the willingness of a lot of Americans to throw up their hands and invoke a pox on everyone.

The Arabs are lousy soldiers, as they have proved in a succession of wars they have launched and lost since 1947, but they're masters at exploiting and manipulating Christian compassion and good will in the West. Israel pays the price.

Martin van Creveld of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, perhaps Israel's leading military historian, says flatly that the Israel Defense Force, the nation's army, will eventually lose the war with the Palestinian terrorists. This is not because it's a war the army can't win. But because the Israelis have the kind of conscience the terrorists don't, the army won't. The ethos of its army is defined by a doctrine the Israelis call "purity of arms," similar to the Christian doctrine of "just war," that the use of violence is permissible only as long as it is directed against enemies capable of defending themselves. How can an honorable soldier shoot a pregnant woman, even if she has wrapped herself in explosives and may be looking for Jewish children to kill in the name of Allah. If there is an Islamist version of gallantry in war, the Palestinians have obviously never heard of it, and are thus armed with the Jewish conscience.

The unending cycle of grim news from the Holy Land is enough to drive Dr. Pangloss and all his disciples to disillusionment, if not despair, and this is what the terrorists in the Jewish midst are clearly counting on. As long as Israel's friends in America press moral equivalence, that both sides are guilty of inexcusable violence, there will be no incentive for the Arabs to settle for "peace," with or without the quotation marks. An American president who would equivocate with terrorists out to destroy America would invite impeachment, and deserve it. So why should we expect the Israelis to settle for national suicide?

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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