Just two months ago, President Bush launched a road map for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He hoped the creation of a peaceful Palestinian state by 2005 - with borders set by this December - would reduce one incentive for Arab terrorists to attack the US.
Mr. Bush's aggressive diplomacy yielded initial concessions, such as a cease-fire, and those steps may yet help salvage the delicately crafted plan during this week's revving up of US diplomacy. At the heart of the plan is a requirement for each side to take trust-building steps based on a principle of mutuality, breaking the eye-for-an-eye vengeance.
But the revival of a cycle of violence, marked by last week's bus bombing in Jerusalem that killed 21 people and then Israel's latest assassinations of Hamas leaders, has left the road map almost as limp as the 1993 Oslo peace plan.
If the road map does fail, it will be difficult to maintain a cycle of new peace plans to thwart the cycle of violence. Hopes are now too thin and Israelis may simply become resigned to keeping 3 million Palestinians as a subjugated people in a matrix of rights-defying controls.
While the violence has certainly burned the road map's edges, the deeper problem is that the Palestinian Authority cannot or will not arrest those who dispatch suicide bombers into Israel. And Israel has been slow to reduce its occupation of the West Bank. These reciprocal steps are necessary soon, and may not be achieved unless Bush uses more of the carrots and sticks of US power to achieve them.
The US has reached the point where it must more aggressively influence the domestic politics of each side. Bush can do more to favor Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in his struggle with President Yasser Arafat to control security forces. And he can use US leverage to isolate Israel's extreme right-wing politicians.
If he can make each side follow the road map's sequence, it will help Bush in his own politics, especially his reelection, and in the war on terrorism.