Withdraw from West Bank

The United States can no longer afford involvement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict if the Bush administration intends to continue it’s diplomatic tap dance in the region. U.S. support for either side is now hypocritical. Meanwhile, India seems bent on pointing out the flaws in U.S. diplomatic ties with Pakistan. America needs to pick its battles, and right now the front line lies much closer to Kashmir than the West Bank.

On Oct. 17, terrorists assassinated Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi. In response, Israeli troops have spent the last week invading Palestinian towns, killing five Palestinian policemen Tuesday. Much of the Arab world sees U.S. support of Israel – $80 billion worth since 1974, according to Mitchell Bard’s article on the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise Web site – as U.S. support of those and other killings. Perceptions like these undermine the State Department’s recent coalition-building mission in the region.

Almost immediately after Israel moved troops into Palestine last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to counter any anti-American perceptions by demanding Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdraw his forces. Israel’s foreign minister, Shimon Peres, rightly pointed out that Powell’s comments stem from the new onslaught of U.S. diplomacy in the region. Unfortunately, the Bush administration’s demand – stop retaliating against terrorists so the United States can retaliate against terrorists – follows no logical line. The flawed reasoning has surely been noted by heads of state we are courting, and it weakens any promises or alliances the United States makes.

Sharon said Tuesday that he would withdraw his troops and call a cease-fire if Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat pledges to prevent future attacks. The problem is that Arafat, who received about $80 million in U.S. aid during the past two years, does not control those who claimed responsibility for assassinating Zeevi. The group, called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, came to the West Bank under Arafat’s urging, but relations between him and the PFLP seem to have deteriorated during the past several months. So Arafat must fight on three fronts: Israelis, disobedient Palestinian terror groups and U.S. diplomatic and monetary pressure. Though not innocent in the situation, Arafat cannot keep the promise Sharon wants him to make.

If a simple solution existed, the problem would have been solved long ago. And since both sides seem either unwilling or unable to cooperate, the United States should pull out of the conflict militarily, diplomatically and monetarily until we solve some problems more pressing to national security. The United States must concentrate on quelling India’s attacks on Pakistan, which have touched off yet another bloody week in the Kashmir province. Right now, the fight is in their back yard, and if India isn’t sedated soon, American troops could find themselves in a war with Pakistan.