COL Deadly cycle of revenge

U.S. should intervene to stop Middle East violence

Sooner or later it will occur to Israeli and Palestinian leaders that their policy of revenge and counter-revenge is a cycle without end.

The ghastly bombing at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which left seven dead and dozens injured severely, was a murderous reply to a previous attack by the Israeli Army. That attack resulted in the death of a Palestinian Hamas leader and 14 civilians, including nine children.

And the Israeli Army attack, of course, was to gain revenge for a still earlier bombing by Palestinian terrorist groups -- part of a long cycle of bloodshed that has cost the lives of more than 1,700 Palestinians and 700 Israelis.

The cycle can be broken only by proceeding with earlier attempts to craft a political settlement. The broad features of such a settlement are known to both sides and could be adopted with sufficient pressure from the United States and from moderate Arab leaders who already have spoken out in favor of this course of action.


President Bush unfortunately has taken the position that nothing can be done until Yasser Arafat is replaced as leader of the Palestinians. While Arafat has many faults as a leader, he does not have final control over the actions of potential suicide bombers. As one Israeli leader has recognized, suicide bombers are motivated by despair and the belief that, because of the huge military advantage of the Israeli army, the Palestinians have no other weapon to use.

Moderates on both sides have recognized the futility of the current course of action. Ordinary people in Israel and the Palestinian camps are tired of living in fear day after day. They would respond gratefully to firm and fair action directed at an ultimate peaceful settlement.

New leadership by the United States would have other positive effects as well. It would have the effect of reducing support for al-Qaida and other terrorist groups who can cite the U.S. response to the Israeli-Palestinian war as a justification for more attacks like those of Sept. 11.

By failing to act decisively, President Bush in effect facilitates perpetuation of the Israelis' and Palestinians' policy of placing revenge above all humanitarian considerations.

How many more deaths on both sides will it take to bring about a change?

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