Israel can stop the cycle of violence with unilateral action

It seems as if every time a ray of hope for peace emerges in Israel, a tragic act of terror transforms the optimism to grief. Having traveled through the cycle of hope and loss enough times, I've come to doubt the success of a negotiated two-state solution anytime soon. I therefore reluctantly support a more immediate and decisive unilateral step.

My last trip to Israel was from the end of May through the beginning of June. It was delightfully different from the other trips to Israel that I took every few months from the beginning of November 2000.

It started with my regular taxi driver, who drove me from Ben-Gurion Airport to the Imbal hotel in Jerusalem. Ilan usually complained from the time I stepped into his car until he pulled up at my hotel. This time, there were no complaints. No tourists had improved to some tourists, business from terrible to a little better. Every aspect of his life was moving in the right direction.

Taxi drivers are a true barometer for Israeli society as a whole. There was a hint of peace in the air. When the Israeli Cabinet went along with the "road map," the Israeli stock market skyrocketed. The mere whiff of peace set off a sense of hope that had not been found in Israel for 2-1/2 years.

With the latest suicide bombing in Jerusalem, the whiff of peace has been turned into a heartbreaking loss of hope. Where does one go? What is to be said?

First one has to give thanks to President Bush, for without his stand on Iraq and his pushing of the road map, there would have been no hope at all.

Can Bush stay the course and bring enough pressure to bear on Arab leaders, not just the Palestinian Authority and its prime minister, Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), but Egypt and Jordan as well, to hold back terrorism?

Truthfully, I have grave doubts that this is possible. As much as I believe in the two-state solution, I do not believe that the Arab side is ready. Arafat still controls most of the security apparatus of the Palestinian Authority and he knows only how to play a two- faced game.

Sharon has gone along with the road map, primarily because of Bush's insistence. In the face of terrorist provocations, he will continue on his present course. So again I ask, what can be done?

Barring Bush's strong intervention, i.e. putting tens of thousands of U.S. troops on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza, I believe it is time that Israel acted without a partner. Israel's unilateral action would force the Israeli leadership to decide where their borders should be. Then they must set about building the best wall or fence that technology can build.

The decision as to where the fence will be placed should be determined by only two criteria: First, that the border should allow it to be a Jewish state, and, second, that the border allow it to be a democratic state. This would probably bring Israel roughly to the lines of 1967 with adjustments being made primarily around Jerusalem.

This would necessitate Israel leaving most of the West Bank and virtually all of the Gaza Strip. This idea today, according to recent polls, is favored by two-thirds of all Israelis. It is far from a perfect solution, but in the absence of a true partner for peace, Israel must move ahead on her own path.

The status quo continues to hurt Israel in every meaningful way. Socially, economically and politically the occupation has been a failure. To be an occupier since 1967 of 3-1/2 million people is a sure way to undermine the moral imperative that brought Israel into existence.

The time necessary for the Israelis to work out her borders will give the road map the necessary time to succeed or fail. If it succeeds, obviously, this is the preferred path. If it fails, then Israel can quickly move to her new self-defined borders.

In either case, we can finally have closure on the chapter that began with the Six-Day War in 1967.