Zbigniew Brezinski’s Op-Ed piece in today’s New York Times is worth a look. Here are some excerpts:

The current crisis poses a grave threat to United States interests. One can argue forever as to whether Yasir Arafat or Ariel Sharon is more responsible for its eruption. What is clear is that the two cannot reach peace together and neither can impose his version of it on the other. Ultimately, the 4.8 million Jewish Israelis cannot permanently sustain the subjugation of 4.5 million Palestinians (1.2 million of whom are second-class Israeli citizens), while Israel’s own democracy and sense of moral self-respect would be jeopardized by continuing to do so. The Palestinians have neither the power nor the international support to drive the Israelis into the sea, while their terror tactics are morally indefensible.(…)

In these circumstances, America cannot ignore world public opinion. There is a nearly unanimous global consensus that United States policy has become one-sided and morally hypocritical, with clear displays of sympathy for Israeli victims of terrorist violence and relative indifference to the (much more numerous) Palestinian civilian casualties. At risk is America’s ability to maintain international support for the war on terrorism, and especially for plans to deal with Saddam Hussein. (…)

President Bush’s statement on the crisis on Thursday took an important step toward shedding the administration’s ambiguous and, of late, somewhat incoherent posture. But it falters on three points. First, by noting that an imminent agreement on a cease-fire was aborted by the bombing of March 27, Mr. Bush risks making the peace process again a hostage to any future terrorist act. (…) Second, Mr. Bush’s highly personal condemnation of Yasir Arafat implies that the Palestinians should select their leader in keeping with American or even Israeli preferences. Third, the president’s statement should have made clear that Secretary of State Colin Powell’s mission to the Middle East is not to restart a process that focuses more on procedure than on substance. Secretary Powell should seek an Arab statement that categorically condemns suicide bombing even if it reserves the right of the Palestinians to resist the occupation and the settlements. Mr. Arafat could then issue such a statement without seeming to be bowing to American and Israeli dictates.

The United States must also now push forward with a specific peace plan. The point of departure for such a plan – based on United Nations resolutions, earlier settlement negotiations conducted at Taba, Egypt, in January 2001 and the Saudi proposal for normalization of relations between Israel and Arab nations – is already in place. The United States should also indicate its willingness to deploy, with the consent both of Israel and of Palestine, a peacekeeping force to enhance security for both parties. (…)

One should entertain no illusions that any such initiative would gain the immediate approval of either the Israelis or the Palestinians. But one should also not underestimate the leverage the United States has or the degree to which the people on both sides are eager to find a way out. Our own national interest and moral obligations demand that we do no less.

Moral Duty, National Interest


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