What is so difficult to understand about the Middle East that Western diplomats and politicians continue to play with scenarios that have no hope of succeeding? The so-called "road map" created out of wishful thinking by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations states there must be two prerequisites before Israel relinquishes more land. One is that the Palestinian side must forswear violence, and the other is that the infrastructure that produces the violence must be dismantled. Neither has even begun to happen.
Quite the opposite.
This does not deter the wishful thinkers, however, including Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon has announced a unilateral withdrawal of forces protecting Jewish "settlers" in Gaza, a strip of land Israel seized from Egypt when Egyptian forces used it to invade Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967. Partly, the announcement is for domestic political reasons. Sharon is involved in a bribery scandal investigation. Some believe a withdrawal might "pressure" Yasser Arafat and his band of serial killers to respond by eschewing terror.
Those who believe such things haven't been paying attention to history. Arafat doesn't give. He takes. That's because his objective differs mightily from everyone else's. The West thinks a formula can be constructed that will, in the words of Secretary of State Colin Powell, help the Palestinians realize the "legitimate aspirations" of a state of their own. What Powell and so many others will not recognize is that Palestinian aspirations are for a state that replaces Israel, not one that co-exists with it.
Reaction to the wall Israel is building to protect itself from homicide bombers and others interested in its destruction is only the latest evidence that Arafat and company remain a threat and have no intention of modifying their objectives. If their plans have changed from regular incursions into Israeli territory for the purpose of killing civilians, why would they oppose a wall?
A Palestinian state without proof that Palestinian intentions have changed would assure an unprecedented base for terrorism that currently does not exist. It would be a threat not only to the entire Middle East and U.S. objectives to democratize the region, but to the United States itself. Such a nation-state would serve as a breeding ground and launching pad for terrorism worldwide. As a sovereign nation, a Palestinian state would be difficult for the United States and the toothless United Nations to control as it exports terror throughout the world. The Palestinian Authority (PA) already is the largest anti-American terrorist entity and enjoys diplomatic protection from much of the world.
President Bush is right in his assertion that the United States is fighting a war with worldwide terrorism. The Palestinian Authority is part of that war. The PA's allies have included Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, the late Ayatollah Khomeini and other rogue nations in the region and beyond.
Any progress toward peace and stability in the Middle East begins with abandoning the fantasy that what America and Israel do or don't do affects the actions and goals of Arafat and company. Anti-democratic forces understand only two things -- power and resolve. A memo recently seized in a coalition raid in Iraq proves the point. It indicates growing frustration by al-Qaida operatives in Iraq at America's resolve to remain in Baghdad until the stated objectives of free elections and a stable society are achieved.
Such resolve -- and not unilateral measures by Israel and the West, or "confidence-building acts" -- is more likely to protect American and Israeli interests and create conditions under which Palestinians and Israelis can have better lives -- together.
Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.