The resurgence of Israeli-Palestinian violence threatens to
derail US efforts to keep Iraq atop the international agenda.
After two suicide bombings last week spoiled a relatively long
month-and-a-half of calm in the Middle East, at least nine
Palestinians died Tuesday in the Gaza Strip. In addition, Mr. Arafat
remains under siege in his Ramallah compound.
While American diplomats are concerned about the escalating
violence in its own right, the acute concern raised by the recent
violence is how it complicates American efforts to muster Arab
support for the US campaign against Iraq - especially for a tough
new United Nations Security Council resolution expected to demand
that Iraq either accept unfettered weapons inspections, or face the
"There was a hope against hope in the [Bush] administration that
you could have a war with Iraq and not have it aggravated by ...
Israel, but this shows that's not going to be possible," says Ian
Lustick, a Middle East expert at the Univeristy of Pennsylvania.
Calling efforts to "stir up violence in Israel ... pull Israel
into an active conflict ..." and raise international concerns about
the Palestinians' well-being the "cost-effective strategy in Saddam
Hussein's arsenal," Mr. Lustick adds, "We're seeing just the first
skirmishes of what we can expect along this line."
Already Arab states have pressed the issue, citing Israel's
decades of flaunting UN demands. This makes President Bush's call
for the UN to enforce Security Council resolutions on Iraq as
politically expedient. "Why these double standards?" Yanya
Mahmassani, a representative of the Arab League asked on Tuesday at
US concerns about Israeli policy
More than once since the spring, Middle East violence has
sidetracked the US and the international community from confronting
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's weapons programs. With that experience
fresh in mind, the US is determined not to lose the momentum again.
Accordingly, the US took quick action to defuse the violence -
and is indicating it may do more. On Monday the US proposed a draft
Security Council resolution condemning Israel's recent actions in
unusually strong terms as well as Palestinian suicide bombers.
The US draft was ultimately not adopted in the heated fourteen
hour debate. Instead, the Security Council early Tuesday voted 14-0
vote in favor of a resolution calling upon Israel to stop the siege
of Mr. Arafat's headquarters. It also pressed Israel for "[an]
expeditious withdrawal of ... occupying forces" and the Palestinians
"to ensure that those responsible for terrorist acts are brought to
justice." The US abstained - but pointedly did not veto the measure. …