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Unpassable test?

Former Israeli prime minister praises Bush's Palestinian proposal

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President Bush's proposal for peace between Israelis and Palestinians laid down a number of markers on the road to a Palestinian state, indicating they are conditional to the success of such a state.

In a phone conversation from Israel, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told me he was mostly pleased with the president's remarks. Mr. Netanyahu, who felt he was sandbagged by President Clinton into making concessions to Mr. Arafat without reciprocity at the Wye River, Md., summit meeting in 1998, said, "for the first time we have an American president standing up and putting the blame where it belongs and demanding a change of regime and a change of behavior on the part of the Palestinians, which is refreshing."

What if Yasser Arafat wins in a new election? Mr. Netanyahu said, "President Bush took care of that when he said the next leadership will have to follow certain standards of responsibility. It's not just a democratic election, which Arafat was never elected with.

"Even if he were, that is not enough by itself. We should put it squarely to any Palestinian leader that in order to be a candidate for any political negotiations with us, they would have to do two things: Disavow the demand for flooding Israel with millions of Palestinians and practically sign up to an international program to rehabilitate the remaining refugees where they are and ending all of the propaganda against Israel, which can be monitored over time. Secondly, Arafat must end terror, which can also be monitored. My position is to then allow [the Palestinians] to have full self-government, but without those sovereign powers that could lead to the eradication of Israel."

One of the issues Mr. Netanyahu says he'd like to hear from Mr. Bush about in future speeches is the limitations the president would like to see on a Palestinian state, "assuming [Palestinian leaders] meet all [Mr. Bush's] tests."

They won't, of course, because the intention of much of the Palestinian leadership and its followers is not peaceful coexistence with Israel. They see the West as decadent and Christians and Jews as enemies of God. How do you make peace when your enemy thinks like this?

Cal Thomas

Cal contributes weekly commentary to WORLD Radio. Over the last five decades, he worked for NBC News, FOX News, and USA Today and began his syndicated news column in 1984. Cal is the author of 10 books, including What Works: Commonsense Solutions to the Nation's Problems.



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