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Analysts Ponder Whether Anything Will Work in Mideast Now - 2002-04-03

As the violence escalates between the Israelis and Palestinians, analysts are trying to come up with a viable solution.

Many have thoughts on what might stop Middle East violence, but what will work? That is the question from an admittedly puzzled Kenneth Katzman, who is senior analyst for Middle East issues at the Congressional Research Service.

What will not work, in his opinion, is the current policy of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who believes military pressure will defeat the Palestinians.

"He is hoping that the Palestinians will unilaterally surrender or give in," he said. "I am not sure that is a strategy that is necessarily going to work because there seems to be no shortage of willing suicide bombers, which defies expectations, and there seems no way to reliably stop them from carrying out these bombings."

Mr. Katzman says as the violence escalates, extremist Palestinian groups are gaining the upper hand. "They are almost out of control. I think even if Arafat were to decide today he is going to rein them in, it would be tough to arrest them, get them under control, cut off their weapons and explosives supplies," he said. "I think that would be very, very tough to do right now."

Mr. Katzman believes some kind of outside intervention is needed to separate the two sides and keep the violence from possibly spreading elsewhere in the region. "There may have to be an Arab solution to this, building on Crown Prince Abdullah's peace plan from the Beirut summit, where Abdullah seemed to signal that the Arabs should take more responsibility for what is going on," he said. "Maybe a group of Arab countries try to have observers or monitors in the West Bank and try to gain some control over these extremist groups."

The Arab nations must be involved in the peace process, says Gregory Gause, director of the Middle East studies program at the University of Vermont. He recommends bringing the Arab foreign ministers to Washington to meet with the Israeli foreign minister.

He thinks too much is expected of Yasser Arafat, who cannot really act alone. "It seems to me that we have to go the other way," he said. "We have to get the major Arab powers - Mubarak, the Saudis agreed with a plan and then go to Arafat and say, 'you have Arab cover for this. This is the best deal, and you have to do it.'"

Professor Gause says the United States has lost credibility in the Arab world for failing to achieve a settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The U.S. will lose still more credibility if it allows the fighting to continue. "I do not think that it is in America's interest to stand back and let the military situation escalate, particularly when we have an interest in the cooperation of Arab and Muslim states in the war on terrorism. This will make it harder, I think, to get that cooperation," he said.

Professor Gause says the Israelis were most secure when they worked with Palestinians rather than against them.