Iraq war wont stop Palestinian attacks

Wednesday's bus bombing, which took at least 15 lives in Haifa, is a grim reminder of what Israel faces during a war in Iraq — and probably afterward.

There is no reason to believe the Palestinians will stop their attacks. The fate of Saddam Hussein has little or no bearing on the Palestinians.

And in Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is heading a right-wing government more interested in revenge than in peace negotiations. Even if the Labor Party had joined the coalition, there is no reason to believe peace talks would have resulted. The conflict was just as hot and heavy a few months ago when Labor was part of the unity government.

President Bush is kidding himself if he thinks he can easily engage both the Palestinians and Israelis once the conflict with Iraq is over.

For one thing, the United States will be busy for months, if not years, rebuilding Iraq and trying to stop the country from being divided by warlords. Why should a post-war Iraq be any different from a post-war Afghanistan, where the Taliban was replaced by feuding warlords?

But even if Bush can somehow extricate himself from those efforts, he'll still have to deal with the battle against al-Qaida and safeguarding America from future terrorism.

If somehow he still manages to find time for the Palestinian conflict, there is little reason to believe he can make a significant impact.

Yasser Arafat seems as strident as ever. He talks one day of appointing a prime minister only to say a day later that he is in no rush to do so. Meanwhile, Hamas has vowed to continue its terror attacks.

Israel is fighting an economic crisis far worse than America's. Unemployment is rising, as is homelessness. And religious strife is increasing. Religious politicians now control the Jerusalem City Council and mayor's office, while the fervently secular Shinui Party is part of Sharon's government.

Sharon can dismiss any pressure from Bush, citing domestic problems.

So, Mr. President, how will the war in Iraq help end the Israel-Palestinian conflict?

It just doesn't add up for us.