By William Markiewicz

The cycle of Palestinian suicide attacks and Israeli retaliations may last for years. On the Palestinian side, hate and anger are stronger than fear of death. Palestinian civilians are resigned to expect Israeli attack like Iraqi civilians are psychologically prepared for an American offensive. As for Israeli civilians, they will continue to believe that retaliation works. I don't think that the Israeli army shares this illusion but Sharon is prisoner of his hard line and will continue on almost automatically.

Probably the only solution will be to rapidly withdraw the settlers' commandos from Palestinian territory and simultaneously establish a tight security cordon around Israel's frontiers. But it would be a slap in the face for Israeli pride, an admission that Sharon was wrong from the beginning, and they feel too powerful to accept a slap. Both sides will continue to pound the defenseless: the kamikaze target innocent and helpless Israeli civilians and the Israeli army does the same to Palestinian civilians ("collateral damage," of course).

President Bush is as much master/slave of his hard line philosophy as Sharon but he can afford it while using Sharon as a hammerhead, which Sharon gladly accepts. I believe that the threat of terror over US territory is over; Americans still crush the Pashtuns into the dust and hold a Damocles sword over Iraq. Both will continue to be used as scapegoats even if the terror doesn't come from there. The Islamists don't want this to happen. The Islamists, nationalists and fundamentalists, believe in collective sacrifice, but I don't think that the Islamists want to lead their Muslim co-religionists into a destruction that won't serve the Palestinian cause. The Palestinian fight is not the Pashtuns' fight. Pashtuns are not Arabs, they don't need to fight for freedom that they always had, and they entered into all this mess needlessly. We all thought that inaccessibility and isolation were Afghanistan's main assets. Now we know it isn't so.

Sharon's problem is that the Gaza Strip is not Afghanistan and not Iraq; you can't trash everything there into dust while nobody watches. Sharon will attack anyway, no matter what the consequences, and the Israeli and Palestinian civilians will continue in their role of scapegoats.

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