Bush's Third 'War'

The war victories in Iraq and Afghanistan were the easy parts of the US antiterror campaign compared with the diplomatic war just launched by President Bush.

Mr. Bush laid out a "road map" in early May to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict and thus end an incentive for anti-American action by militant Arabs. How's the "war" going so far? If it were covered as intensely by the media as the Iraq war was, early battlefield reports would reveal heavy US losses.

Israel hasn't accepted the road map as is, and its prime minister, Ariel Sharon, wants to bypass Secretary of State Colin Powell and deal directly with President Bush next week in hopes of adding conditions to the US plan. And the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, would rather criticize Israel than take steps like reducing official invective against Jews and Zionism, or collecting weapons from Palestinian militants.

Bush can view these early setbacks as about par for a longstanding conflict. But if he seeks reelection without making progress in creating a Palestinian state by 2005, Americans might begin to think he's not the antiterror war commander that he has been up to now.

He'll need to make sure both Israeli and Palestinian leaders take major steps in tandem, as the road map outlines, rather than letting one side wait for the other side to act. For instance, Bush may be reluctant to force Israel to stop expansion of Jewish settlements or even dismantle some. Yet such actions are as necessary as those Bush ordered in the other two wars.

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