Q&A: Terror's impact on the Middle East peace process

Dr. Bruce W. Jentleson is director of the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, and an expert on the Middle East. He was a senior foreign policy adviser to Al Gore, and a participant in the Mideast peace process under President Clinton.

csmonitor.com: How are Tuesday's attacks likely to impact the US role in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians?

Jentleson: The situation in the Middle East was more than bad enough before yesterday's attacks. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict had slid into war - limited scale war, but war nevertheless. Risks have been mounting not only of escalation but of spread to other parts of the region. If there was any doubt that US security and interests are at stake, there no longer should be. We need to be more engaged in getting the Israeli-Palestinian talks back on track, and soon, while also developing a stronger, more sustained and systematic antiterrorism policy.

csmonitor.com: If Bush tries to assemble a multi-national coalition - including Arab states - to pursue military action against the bombers and their supporters - how difficult will that be?

Jentleson: Two things are key for our policy response. First is that precisely because military action will be a necessary part of our respone, we need to act with others and not strictly unilaterally. We may have the bombers and other military forces to carry out an operation, but alone we will not have the legitimacy and credibility that also are essential in today's world.

The 1990-91 Persian Gulf war succeeded not just because of the military action but also because of the diplomacy that forged the 27-nation coalition. Combining force and diplomacy is even more important now when the threat is less easily identifiable.

Second is that it will not be enough to just respond to this as an incident, horrific as it was; we need a sustained, systematic and broad response making terrorism a top security priority for us and for our allies. This cannot be done without a strong international coalition. This can and should include our European allies, Russia, China, our Asian allies, Israel, moderate Arab states, and others.

csmonitor.com: How do you explain the dichotomy between the Arab leaders' expressions of sympathy, and the jubilance in the streets of many Arab countries?

Jentleson: Too many Arab leaders have gone for too long conveying one message in relations with the United States and another at home. It's time that those who genuinely support peace and oppose violence and terrorism stand together, with the necessary courage and consistency.

The oft-heard argument about their being constrained by "the Arab street" is much overdone. Leaders need to lead. They can have their own strategies that fit their own political situations, but if they don't lead towards peace, moderation, and co-existence, the street will only get more violent and radical.

csmonitor.com: Are we going to see a shift in sympathy and support toward the Israeli side of the Middle East conflict?

Jentleson: Perhaps some, but mostly this will still be geared to what happens on that track in itself.

csmonitor.com: Will the Israelis see this as a green light to strike hard at the Palestinians?

Jentleson: No. It's not even clear at this point that any Palestinian group is involved. Even if it is, the two issues should not be linked in this way.

• Dr. Bruce W. Jentleson is the director of the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy and a professor of public policy and political science at Duke University . He was a foreign policy aide to Senator Al Gore in 1987 and 1988, and is the author and editor of seven books. He is also a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and a guest scholar with the Brookings Institution .Dr. Jentleson was interviewed by The Christian Science Monitor's online news editor, James Norton.

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