Peace Now?

One of President George W. Bush’s professed goals in going to war with Iraq was to change the political dynamic in the Middle East. A demonstration of U.S. willpower and military resolve was intended, at least in part, to convince Arab leaders that politics as usual, especially support for Islamic terrorist groups, could not continue. That included Arab support for the nearly three-year-old "second" intifada against Israel.

Having overthrown Saddam Hussein and occupied Iraq, Bush has finally assumed his role as the necessary arbitrator of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a role he had shunned by refusing to deal with Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat. On June 4, Bush convened a summit in Jordan between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the new Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to launch the administration’s "road map" to peace officially. Sharon and Abbas, their speeches largely written by U.S. diplomats, agreed to begin the arduous process of negotiation. Only days after the summit, five Israeli soldiers were killed in two separate attacks by Palestinian extremists. To what extent Bush is willing to stay the course—to "ride herd" on both parties, as he put it—and pay a political price for progress between Israelis and Palestinians is now being tested.

In theory the road map calls on both sides to make a series of concessions designed to build trust and to move toward a...

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