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Words alone won't stop violence in Middle East



Published: Fri, August 3, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



By condemning Israel for this week's missile attack that claimed the lives of two children, the United States and its European allies have shown that they aren't blind to the reality of the Middle East. While the U.S., in particular, is viewed in the Arab world as blindly pro-Israel, the Bush administration demonstrated its objectivity when it criticized the attack Tuesday on an office building in the center of the West Bank town of Nablus.

In addition to the two brothers, 10 and 7, six others were killed, including two senior leaders of the Hamas Islamic movement, in what Israeli government officials said was the country's "right and obligation to fight terrorism."

But the U.S. State Department called the deadly action "excessive" and said it represented a "new and dangerous escalation" of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Secretary of State Colin Powell characterized the missile attack as "too aggressive."

Terrorist acts: In the past, Washington has used such words to criticize Palestinian militants for their acts of terrorism that have claimed the lives of innocent Israelis. Last month, a suicide bomber killed 20 Israeli young people outside a Tel Aviv night spot. Ariel Sharon's government wanted to retaliate immediately, but the U.S. and European nations urged restraint, thus avoiding all-out war.

President George W. Bush sent CIA chief George Tenet to the Middle East to work with Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs to extend the truce, but this week's bloodshed clearly shows the explosive nature of the situation.

While the condemnation of Israel should reassure Yasser Arafat and his people that the U.S. and its European allies can play the role of honest broker, more than words are needed to stop militants from making good on their promise to avenge the deaths of the two Hamas leaders, the two young boys and the four others killed in the missile attack.

Indeed, on Thursday, the Associated Press quoted Israeli police as saying they narrowly averted a bomb attack on a bus traveling past the northern farming village of Tel Telomim, while Palestinian witnesses said that a 24-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops near Nablus.

In addition, a Palestinian military court sentenced a 50-year-old Palestinian to death for helping Israel carry out a lethal attack, while two suspected collaborators were shot Wednesday night in the West Bank.

Peace: Put all those events together and what is clearly evident is that the Israelis and the Palestinians cannot make peace on their own. The United States and its European allies must become active participants in any process that would result in a ceasefire and establishment of a framework for future negotiations

A plan developed by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell still offers the best hope for a near-term solution to the Middle East crisis, but the two sides seem unwilling to make the necessary concessions. They could use some friendly persuasion from the international community.




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