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Bush's final push for a Palestine

The US must push Israel for big concessions at the peace conference to win over even Hamas backers.

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With 18 months left in office, President Bush may try to pull a rabbit out of the thread-bare Middle East hat. No, probably not in Iraq. Rather, in trying to forge a Palestine – if, that is, he can be even-handed about it.

On Monday, he called for an international conference this fall to negotiate the creation of a Palestinian state that can exist peacefully with Israel. Such a historic step would do as much to prevent another terrorist strike on US soil as anything else Mr. Bush has done overseas in the nearly six years since the Sept. 11 attacks. His goal of democratizing the Middle East is a ways off, to say the least, with an unstable Iraq. And Al Qaeda has found a new home in Pakistan.

Stateless Palestinians have long been a casus belli among Arab terrorists, although removing the injustice done to them by Israel's creation in 1948 has also long been in the interests of the US and Israel, especially since the 1967 war that led Israel to take new territory.

Toward the end of his presidency, President Clinton tried to make a final push to forge a compromise between Israel and the Palestinians. A lame-duck US president has enough independence from domestic political pressures to attempt such head-knocking diplomacy. But Mr. Clinton failed, and within a year, the 9/11 attacks happened, setting the stage for Bush to virtually ignore the Palestinian issue as he formed a tight bond with a hardline Israeli government.

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