Defanging Iraq of its most threatening weapons would be a whole lot easier for the United States if the other Middle East trouble spot, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, had a viable "road map" for creating a Palestinian state.
last June, President Bush promised such an independent state within three years if the Palestinians would reform their government and suppress attacks on Israeli civilians. Over the past two weeks, the Bush administration officially presented US-friendly leaders in the Middle East with a diplomatic road map for fulfilling that promise. (See story, page 6.)
Call it Oslo II or whatever, but the Bush road map would stand a better chance of success if Palestinian suicide bombers weren't striking again and again, and Israel wasn't slowly eliminating the structures and economy of the embryonic Palestinian state put in place by the 1993 Oslo Accords.
That current destruction of two societies has been going on for two years, resulting in the killing of some 600 Israelis and 1,600 Palestinians. Most Israelis now live in fear, while most Palestinians live in severe deprivation.
Extremists on both sides who seek a total land grab of the other's territory are making it difficult to follow the wishes of most Israelis and Palestinians who have learned, during the less turbulent '90s, to appreciate the need for the creation of a peaceful, Palestinian state alongside Israel.
This "two-state" solution remains the best option to correct the historic wrongs committed against the Palestinians and to ensure Israel's safety. Otherwise the Jewish state would just become an overlord to a majority Palestinian population.
Movement toward a Palestinian state is also an urgent necessity for the US campaign against terrorism, which includes dissuading Arabs from joining Al Qaeda and winning tacit support from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt for US action against Iraq.
As in the past, the key question is how much political muscle and economic might the US president will use to nudge the two parties from their destructive behaviors. Can Mr. Bush isolate proterrorism Palestinian leaders? And will he force a halt to new Israeli settlements on the West Bank, an easing of Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks that keep Palestinians from traveling and working, and the release of Palestinian tax revenue?
The growth of Jewish settlements and roadways are essentially dividing up the West Bank, making the two-state solution almost impossible.
Time is not on Bush's side. If he truly sees a two-state solution as urgent and essential to the US campaign on terrorism, then he must act now.