Bush plan for Middle East represents real breakthrough

It may be too early to break out the champagne bottles and toast to world peace but President Bush gave the world reason to hope Monday when he unveiled his blueprint for resolving the age old conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In a nutshell, the president proposed that the United States will help establish a Palestinian state if the Palestinian people will replace Yasser Arafat as their leader and replace him with a freely elected legislature.

What is remarkable about the Bush proposal is that he proposed that the boundaries of the new Palestinian state would be set up along the lines of those that existed prior to the Six Day War of 1967.

That is a huge concession on the part of the United States and Israel and one which overcomes the primary objection of the Palestinians and many Arab states.

Saeb Erakat, chief negotiator for the Palestianian Authority, has said it over and over on CNN during televised debates with Israeli negotiators - just return to the pre-1967 borders.

President Bush called him on that challenge. Now the world gets to see whether the Palestinian negotiator was sincere or whether he was bluffing. Already it appears he may have been bluffing.

Erakat now says that President Bush has no right to call for new leadership because Arafat was chosen in "free and fair elections." Perhaps. The fact remains that if Arafat is all that is standing in the way of peace in the Middle East, then he needs to go. If he truly is a leader interested in advancing the peace process in the Middle East, the best thing Arafat could do is resign.

The 1967 borders are significant because they represent lands that Israel seized - and never returned - after Egypt, Syria, and Jordan massed troops on Israel's borders in preparation for an all-out attack. Israel had no choice but to defend itself or be destroyed. So Israel defended itself. In the process, the Israelis lost 700 people while destroying the Egyptian air force on the ground, killing 25,000 Arabs, and taking control of Syria's Golan Heights, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip, and Jordan's West Bank. Israel won a fight it did not pick and as a result of Arab aggression maintains that these occupied territories are critical to its own security.

The Bush proposal is promising because it effectively isolates Arafat, who many experts consider the father of terrorism, and it appeals to the vast majority of moderate Arab leaders who have endorsed a Saudi proposal under which the Arab world would normalize relations with Israel in exchange for Israel withdrawing to the borders in place before the 1967 Six Day War.

If the Bush administration is successful, it will have accomplished one of the greatest political feats in modern history ... and the world will be a much safer place for the human race to live

the Bush administration is successful in this endeavor, it will achieve nothing short of one of the greatest accomplishments in modern history. R.S.  

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