It took the bloody destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the bloody attack on the Pentagon to stop the bloody fighting between the Israelis and Palestinians. But it will take a major commitment by both sides and by the United States to make sure that the Middle East truce holds.
The deaths of thousands of Americans and foreign nationals at the hands of terrorists on September 11 in New York City and Washington should serve as a reminder to the Israelis and Palestinians that their conflict has worldwide repercussions. The Arab terrorists who hijacked jet aircraft fully loaded with fuel and carrying innocent men, women and children are said to have been disciples of the world's leading mastermind of terror, Osama bin Laden.
In the past, bin Laden, a Saudi Arabian millionaire who has conducted his campaign of death and destruction from mountain bases in Afghanistan, has talked about the battles that have raged between Israel and the Palestinians and has blamed the United States for contributing to the region's instability.
Bin Laden denied any involvement in last week's bombing of the twin towers and the Pentagon, but he did say that America's support of Israel has made it the enemy of many Muslims. The U.S. government points the finger of blame at bin Laden for the attack on America and the Bush administration this week warned the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan that their failure to extradite the terrorist will result in a military response.
Praise: It is against this backdrop that President Bush praised Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for ordering his security forces to prevent attacks on Israelis and for telling officers to show maximum restraint, even if fired on.
In response, Israel withdrew tanks from Palestinian territory and promised to halt military strikes.
Despite a deadly Palestinian attack on an Israeli family just a day after the truce was announced, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Friday that a relative fall in the level of violence meant there were real prospects of a meeting soon with Arafat.
"I appreciate the fact that we have had another half-day of a real cease-fire," Peres said. "If it will be continued another sunrise, another sunset, we shall meet," he said, referring to talks with Arafat.
While it is too early to suggest that the cease-fire is the beginning of a new era of peace in that part of the world, the U.S., which until the Sept. 11 terrorist attack had been playing a passive role in the peace process, has let it be known that calm in the Middle East is necessary if the international campaign against terrorism is to succeed.
President Bush is right in arguing that all countries that have suffered at the hands of terrorists have a stake in how this nation retaliates for the attack on America. The president wants Arab and Muslim states to participate in the international coalition, which is why he wants Israel and the Palestinians to maintain their truce.
The 6,000-plus victims of the attack on America are today's martyrs of the hatred that is being spewed around the world under the guise of religion. Their deaths should not be in vain.