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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 08:46 GMT 09:46 UK
Middle East: Can the US bring peace?
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Israel has been rocked by another suicide bomb attack only hours after a meeting between US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

At least six people were killed and more than 60 injured in the blast in West Jerusalem.

It occured shortly after Mr Powell admitted that he had failed to reach an immediate agreement with the Israelis for a halt to their military operation in the West Bank.

Earlier on Friday, the Israeli army acknowledged that their operations in a refugee camp near the West Bank town of Jenin resulted in many casualties.

At least 100 people are dead and many hundreds injured as a result of the military actions, according to Israeli sources.

Even before the suicide attack, Mr Sharon had refused to halt the Israeli army offensive in the West Bank.

What can Colin Powell hope to achieve amid the current violence in Israel and the occupied territories? How can Israelis and Palestinians be brought back to the negotiating table?

We discussed the Middle East conflict in Talking Point, the phone-in programme of the BBC World Service and BBC News Online. We were joined on the programme by George Joffe, Middle East analyst at Cambridge University.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your comments:

The US must intervene, if only to show the world that it can be fair and impartial.

Elisabeth, Japan
The US must intervene, if only to show the world that it can be fair and impartial. The Bush administration has been so blatantly pro-Israel and have shown their unwillingness to be drawn into any peace negotiations in the Middle East that they may well just drag out the process while Israel holds the Palestinians captives. One of the main purposes of the UN is to try to resolve such conflicts before they escalate. But as long as Israel continues to simply defy the numerous UN resolutions against them demanding their withdrawal from Palestinian self-rule areas, it is hard to see how Israel can be made to agree to any settlement. If this situation were happening anywhere else in the world, the US would have stepped in forcefully. Why not here?
Elisabeth, Japan

While Arafat is allowed to remain firmly in the frame (thirty years now) regarding Middle East politics, there will be no peace (if these two countries do not want peace - then so be it) for the Palestinians and Israel. Like Saddam Hussein, Arafat should have been "removed" long ago. While foreign governments keep interfering in the conflict there can be no final outcome in the Middle East(Israel has won two wars fought against overwhelming odds already). You cannot reason with religious zealots as the history of the Middle East clearly shows. Leave Israel alone to solve its own internal policy/security.
Dennis Morrod, England

Yes, the US can bring peace to the region but only by tightening Israel's purse strings. However, until the Palestinians turn to peaceful demonstrations instead of suicide bombings, this is not possible. As for the majority of Arab states, until they accept Israel's right to exist, they have nothing helpful to offer.
A Walker, England

Until people realise that the people who carry the suicide bombing attacks are members of families, sons and daughters, that are capable not only of hating but also of falling in love and being scared, only then people will ask the right questions. Are people born suicide bombers or made (inspired)? Some people (including the American authorities) don't want to face these questions.
nakis nearchou, cyprus

The establishment of any country based on religion is in itself a recipe for disaster, irrelevant of whether it is Muslim, Jewish, etc. It is next to impossible to be a member of another religion other than the one a country is based on and have equal treatment and opportunity. As far as USA achieving peace in the Middle East, it will only come after achievement of respect from the Muslim world, and achievement of respect from the Muslim world will come when the USA are not seen as biased and seen for what a leader should be which is just and fair.
Kato, USA

What people here don't seem to understand is that Israel is dealing with a leadership that has turned down absurdly generous peace offers, incites violence in youngsters instead of providing basic services, and has done nothing to stop (and sometimes, everything to help) terror attacks. If Israel was afforded the right to defend itself, as every nation is, than this conflict would be over with. And as of claims of Palestinian civilian death tolls - let's remember that 1000+ Afghan civilians were lost in our War on Terror (and that's the government estimate).
Aviv, USA

Unfortunately, in order for US policy to change, it is necessary to get the attention of the American people. (Not like on Sept. 11 though please!) Extensive media coverage in America of what is taking place (e.g. in Jenin) is the only hope of a solution, albeit a long-term one. When enough Americans are sickened by the daily horrors of this conflict, perhaps they will put pressure on their representatives to change our one-sided policies. Until that happens, special interests (oil and the US pro-Israeli lobby) will have their way with Congress. For now though, given the media coverage I've seen in the US lately (or lack thereof!), peace is nowhere in sight.
Steve, USA

A correction: I am truly surprised by the lack of knowledge that brings some of us to very mistaken conclusions. Somebody in this forum said that the U.S. grants Israel 9 billions dollars a year. The right number is 3 billions. This is only about 7 percent of the net budget of Israel, and probably will not force Israel to change its policy if stopped. From the 3 billions, 1.8 billions is used by Israel to buy U.S. made weapons, and therefore assists the U.S. industry. Otherwise Israel could buy cheaper weapons from Russia, which is eager to sell them to Israel these days and widen its weapons manufacturing. The point is that Israel is a strategic ally of the U.S. and the picture of the relations between the two countries is very wide.
Alik, Israel

Even if Israel did all that the Saudi initiative requires, the terror would continue

Vladimir Beker, Israel
Even if Israel did all that the Saudi initiative requires, the terror would continue. The only difference will be that Israel probably would not be able to stand against it. The terror was not started in 1967, but 45 years before. Surely, UN would condemn it. But would it protect us? Would you: UK, France, Belgian citizens, send your soldiers to die for us? I don't think so - you never did it. And I cannot blame you: why your soldiers should die for us? It is our job. So let us protect ourselves the only way we can.
Vladimir Beker, Israel

It looks like a dream that there will ever be peace in the Middle East when two opposite religions are living and fighting side by side and door to door until one of them is completely destroyed. What do you think about the new generation of Palestinians who are the eyewitnesses of the ugly war? What do you expect from them?
Muhammad Khubaib Aziz, Pakistan

Easy answer to this question. No, we will not be able to bring peace. Did you hear what Sharon said? He said the Palestinians would have to endure many harsh blows now, and he called the PA and Arafat the "father of terrorism." It is clear that no amount of pressure placed on Sharon by the US or anyone else will get him to even talk to Arafat. The man is bombing Arafat's residence, for crying out loud. And like the naive fools we are, we wonder if it's possible to get them to start talking peace? This war will only end when Sharon and Arafat are both out of the picture.
Jason A., USA

Why are you surprised that US supports Israel in murdering Palestinians if they do the same in Afghanistan?

Narine, Armenia
It is simply impossible. From year to year US shows no competency to held world political problems. And why are you surprised that US supports Israel in murdering Palestinians (not only militants, though they have right to fight for the their freedom) if they do the same in Afghanistan? Who gives them (US) right to do it there?
Narine, Armenia

To Bob (American in Korea), As far as oil embargos are concerned, the Arab countries are stopped from using oil as a political tool because of an OPEC treaty. Even if they did it though, the IEA has over 4 billion gallons of crude oil in store for such situations so it would hurt the Arabs far sooner than the Americans. You are wrong about it not hurting America though - if you were here, you'd hear the hue and cry over the 20 cent per gallon increase in gas prices; I expect you to know how supply and demand works to know how prices would jump if the Arabs decided to stop the oil. But the Arabs wouldn't do anything that'll hurt their extravagant lifestyles.
Deel, Arab in US

It's been suggested by some people that an oil embargo against the US by the Arab nations would force us to have second thoughts about our policies in that region. If you've been paying attention to the energy world at all in the last few months, you'd realize that Russia has outstripped Saudi in crude production and will soon be the West's primary energy supplier. We already have drastically reduced our dependence on Arab oil from what it was during the first embargo in 1973-4. An Arab oil embargo would only hurt the Arab world as it did back then. We might have to have a few rations, but in the end, we'd just diversify.
Bob, American living in Korea

Unfortunately, European leaders' condemnation of Palestinian terror is of a piece with Arafat's own (English-only) disclaimers: in the circumstances, it amounts to tacit encouragement. No wonder Israeli are frustrated with European self-righteousness. If European leaders had the courage to take a principled stand, rather than just trying to appease the violent Arab street (not to mention the all-important three-letter-word), they might actually begin to play a meaningful role in the creation of a Palestinian state.
Seth, US

With their racist polices US and Israel are digging their graves with their own hands. As history shows, nothing extremely bad and dangerous can last forever. Bush should know that world politic is not a Hollywood film on cowboys. US is simply not competent to make peace talks as they are well known Israel supporters and nowadays when hundreds of Palestinians are killed, the US are still singing that old song that Israel has the right to defend itself.
Anonymous, Russia

Why doesn't the Israeli government trust European mediation in the Arab Israeli conflict? At some point Israel will have to throw in its lot with Europe economically and politically. To a lesser extent the Israelis will also need to normalize relations with its next door Arabs. The lack of any formal alliances with the outside world is crippling Israeli security.
Dan, USA

The US cannot bring peace anywhere. The Israelis are building Jewish settlements on what is supposed to become the Palestinian state (albeit with US aid) and there will be no peace, now or for the next 50 years, as long as they continue to do so. Unfortunately, US aid makes all this possible. The only option the US has is to discontinue the economic and military aid that allows the Israelis to proceed as they have.
Mike, NYC, USA

I agree with Andy 100%. US must stop the handouts to Israel. Sharon should be tried for atrocities.. US must change its approach to this issue or withdraw altogether. I am, as many others are, really losing my support for the US government and their so-called War against terror with this hypocritical approach to the Middle East Crisis. What is Terrorism? I don't understand any more.
Bill, Australia

I would love nothing more than for the US to extract itself from this mess, wash our hands of the matter, and give the Europeans a chance. When their sanctions and multilateral engagements fail as miserably as our own management of this process, everyone will finally realize that true peace will never come to this region. Not in our life time, not ever. Pessimistic as it may sound, anyone with any wisdom will realize it to be true.
Andy, USA

Anyone that encourages this country to stay involved in this never-ending conflict for even one day longer is a fool

Thomas, USA
Anyone that encourages this country to stay involved in this never-ending conflict for even one day longer is a fool. Total disengagement from the Middle East is the only solution to preventing further attacks on this country by terrorists and by hypocritical international observers.
Thomas, USA

Yes Mr. Bush: Enough is Enough! 55 years of bold, shameful partiality towards the Israelis must end now 'without delay!'
Sam Patel, UK

Although I am as disgruntled about our unabashed support of Israel as many on this board, I'll point out that we are not by any means the only country that supports Israel, overtly or covertly. Many nations in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe do extensive business with Israel, invest in their economy, and even exchange dual-use technology with them (China is one of these). France and Britain have also helped arm Israel to the teeth in the past, as recently as the Gulf War. So, I'm afraid the only fair accusations are those made against the entire UN for not enforcing its resolutions and accords.
Mike, USA

The mess would end as soon as the military and financial backing of Israel by the US would end. Tension would remain as long as people are evicted out of their homes remain as refugees. The US should be sincere in trying to find a solution rather than help Israel in the aggression.
Rupesh, India

It is time for the so-called civilized world to intervene and stop the annihilation of the Palestinian people. The demonstrations all over the world that sympathize with the Palestinians cannot be all wrong. The disturbing images of bodies and demolished homes are unbearable. We are getting tired of words such as "ceasefire", as if there were two armies fighting for a chunk of land. Let's face it; there is only one army with superior weaponry, the Israelis, that plays take-all game and desperate people fighting for the basics of human rights and dignity, the Palestinians.
N Abdullah, Canada

The Israelis could have never picked a leader worse than Sharon

Mariam, Belgium
It is probably true that we could have a better leader than Arafat, like S. Arakat or Hanan Ashrawi but I am sure that the Israelis could have never picked a leader worse than Sharon. I resent the fact that we are being portrayed as terrorists and compared with the Taliban regime. The US has been attacked for vague reasons but we all know that here it is a matter of survival and ownership. I do not agree with suicide bombers against Israeli civilians but I do know that it is not the fault of those teenagers who see others enjoying a life and a land that is taken from them. No doubt that whatever agreement they will reach, the Palestinians will be picking up the leftovers off the table.
Mariam, Belgium

What kind of democracy is Israel claiming it abides by? Is it a democracy of daily humiliation and abuse of the Palestinians? I think the world was being fooled, but not anymore.
John, USA

The US cannot broker peace for unwilling participants. What Colin Powell should do is take the American billions away from Israel as a condition of their withdrawal. No withdrawal, no money. Peace will only come when the Israelis take an honest look at their actions and see the South African-like conclaves that they have "allowed" Palestinians to live in for what they are.
Marguerite Oconnell, USA

No, that is unless the US manages to take out surgically the Iraqi, Iranian, and Sudanese governments. Sudan is home to many Egyptian Muslim fundamentalists and as such a major force behind Muslim extremism. Iran is trying to undermine Turkey's secular society, and the Palestinians, if they do not have any backers (except for Syrians, but one can easily cope with them) will have to learn to live with the Israelis.
Anonymous, Hanover, Germany

The US cannot effectively broker peace in the Middle East until it can be more neutral towards both parties. The US government has traditionally shown undue preference for Israel, both in political support and in economic/military aid. The usual argument is that Israel is a victim of Islamic aggression, and of course that since they are a democracy they deserve preferential treatment. It is far more interesting, however, to suggest that the unequal treatment that the US provides is because the democratic party receives huge contributions from Zionist lobbies, and the republican party consists largely of right-wing Christians who believe that having Jews in Israel is a necessary condition for the 2nd coming. It would also help if the US re-evaluated its own anti-terrorism crusade... Perhaps addressing the root causes of terrorism would be more effective than bombing non-combatants and installing puppet governments in already unstable areas.
Mat, USA

This mess must end

Andy, USA
Give the Israelis 24 hours to pull out and put US troops in to help in the creation of a Palestinian state. Otherwise, immediately stop the $9 billion annual US handout to Israel. This mess must end and that requires the US to do it!
Andy, USA

I would love it if the US would get out of the situation altogether. But who is going to step in? I haven't seen any action by the EU...
Kathy, USA

We can all pray very hard that divine intervention will touch the hearts of both sides, that human life will be protected and cherished and that the Israelis and Palestinians will be able to live in peace side by side.
Marie Annette M. Griebsch, USA

They will only accept peace if it comes because the enemy has been obliterated

Peter, Brit living in US
The biggest barrier to peace is that there are too many people on both sides who don't want it. They will only accept peace if it comes because the enemy has been obliterated. Sharon is one of these people, and Arafat may be too - at best he is incapable of controlling the groups within his jurisdiction.
Peter, Brit living in US

As a pan-Africanist the Palestinian struggle reminds me of the way black South Africans were oppressed. But in the end they gained their freedom. So I think the Palestinians should not give up - they'll get their freedom.
Bobsonmansaray, UK

I admire Yassar Arafat for not bending to Colin Powell's request to condemn the bombings. He has done this in the past and was trampled on. If Powell was not prepared to be an unbiased mediator why did he bother to go to Israel in the first place?
Dave, USA/ Thailand

The US has the power to force Israel to start this process

RJS, Scotland
If the Israelis would pull back to the boundaries set by the UN, abandon the settlements and rehouse their settlers within Israel, allow a limited amount of return to Palestinians who were evicted and sensible compensation to the remainder, then any further action inside Israel would be genuine terrorism and would be condemned by all. Gradually, pressure from law abiding Palestinians (99.9%) would prevent the militants who thrive on depressive conditions. The US has the power to force Israel to start this process.
RJS, Scotland

I defy anyone to explain exactly how Israel is supposed to negotiate with an organisation that seeks its destruction. Do you negotiate with someone who wants to murder you?
Steve, UK

I am not angry with the US or any EU country. However, I am angry with the Arab countries specially the oil rich ones, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE etc. They should unite and help their brothers and sisters in Palestine. They should stand up to the US by cutting off oil exports and let the US economy suffer for a while. But they haven't done anything before and they are not doing anything now. If only they would stop looking at their own self-interests┐
Jasmin, UK

We have seen how American intervention creates more wars, conflicts and divisions

Frederick, Philippines
For the past decades we have seen how American intervention creates more wars, conflicts and divisions. Don't you think it is about time that a collective action formed by every country is realised? Don't you think it's about time that international politics is reshaped and reformed free from anybody's biases and preferences?
Frederick, Philippines

I only wish that the peace-loving Israeli and the peace-loving Palestinian could come together and work something satisfactory out between them. Unfortunately as long as the anger and hatred has such control over people's minds - there will be no hope of anyone resolving the situation.
Sar W, Brussels

How is the US going to bring peace to the Middle East with the biased support it gives to the Israelis? When is the US going to start realising it is not the only country that matters in this world?
Mr X, UK

Now that Arafat is becoming more and more emasculated, the Israelis will soon be able to withdraw

Jason, UK
Perhaps now that the Israelis are working their way nicely through the people on their 100 most wanted list that they provided to the PA a long time ago, and now that Arafat is becoming more and more emasculated, the Israelis will soon be able to withdraw, Sharon can leave the premier post in Israel to someone able to negotiate for an acceptable peace and the many Palestinians and Israelis desiring peace can come to the fore and harmony can commence after 54 years of turmoil. It is unlikely, but let's hope!
Jason, UK

If this was Yugoslavia instead of Israel, the US government would be up in arms and calling for an immediate end to the inexcusable brutality Israeli forces are visiting on the Palestinians. Of course if it was any other country the minority peoples would not have been subject to what the Palestinians have been subjected to for all of these decades. I cannot for a moment agree that both sides are equally wrong - certainly not after the Israeli escalation. What choices do Palestinians have if they choose to strike back against a far more well armed oppressor? I am ashamed to be an American in this mess. That we waited so long to do anything is inexcusable. That we have armed Israel for years and part of my tax dollars are at work in this horror sickens me. It is time to give Palestinians full self-determination on their own land at least including the lands granted by the Oslo accords. Nothing else is humane.
Samantha Atkins, USA

The creation of the Israeli state was based on the principle of the attribution of a land to the adepts of a given religion, whichever part of the world they might come from. Palestinians had been living in this land for centuries, regardless of their different religions, and have been asking for the restitution of their rights since then. There is something impossible to solve in this equation which is ill defined from the beginning. Now, what can the US do? Less than any other country, especially as it has constantly supported Israel militarily and financially.
Guy, France

The US is not looking for peace - it is looking for a way out that benefits the Israelis

Alex, USA
The US cannot bring peace, and although Colin Powell is sincere in his efforts, and may even be impartial, he is merely being used as damage control for the Bush administration. Trade sanctions against Israel would also not be effective because the US would respond against Europe very quickly at which point Europe would back off. The UN's lack of action is being driven by a fear of upsetting the US. Sanctions are freely imposed on anyone and everyone, but Israel seems to be an exception. The US is not looking for peace - it is looking for a way out that benefits the Israelis, and at the same time washes its hands of the problem so that it can move on to a more US-centric agenda.
Alex, USA

Why in the world can't everyone agree that Palestine and Israel are both equally right and wrong - quit worrying about who threw the first stone and sit down and end this mess. All who would like to mediate this mess please step forward as I am tired of reading how we are doing it wrong.
Diana, USA

The question should be: "Can anyone bring peace to the Middle East?" The answer is no. Why? Because both sides have childish leaders who treat the conflict as if it where some playground dispute.
Suren Sethu, USA

Why didn't Arafat accept the peace plan put to him by Israel?

Nimrod Lasman, Israel
As an Israeli I watch the news and I wonder: Did people forget why we entered the West Bank? What was the cause for this operation? How many innocent Israelis have died as a result of terror that was launched against us? Is there any country that would have reacted differently?! Some key questions anyone should ask himself: Why didn't Arafat accept the peace plan put to him by Israel? Why did he decide to use terror against Israel? What happened to all the international aid that poured into the PA in the past 8 years aimed at helping the poor Palestinians who are living in the refugee camps? Let us see the real picture.
Nimrod Lasman, Israel

The US will never do anything to secure peace in Israel/Palestine they are incompetent. We all can though (never ever buy anything which originates from either country).That will certainly stop the Jews in their tracks.
Len Rosser, England

Having seen the television pictures and reports, it's hard to see how Israel can claim to be upholding democratic and civilised values

Jim, UK
Having seen the television pictures and reports, it's hard to see how Israel can claim to be upholding democratic and civilised values. The US has not experienced this until recently, but after decades of terrorism in Europe (UK, Spain, Italy etc) we all realised fighting terror with greater terror plays into the hands of the terrorists and destroys democratic and civilised values. How many new terrorists has Israel now created with its heavy-handed, disproportionate approach? The price will be paid in the coming decades.
Jim, UK

Peace can only come when Arab nations accept Israel's right to exist.
V Patel, UK

The most surprising feature in this insane war is complete lack of cohesion in Middle East. If the US is involved in a war against terrorism the UK and other like minded countries will pledge their allegiance to it's cause while if an Arab state is involved in a war other like minded countries will distance themselves from the conflict and herein lies the irony - Muslims the world over stand divided when it comes to standing up for fellow brethren.
Faiz, India

How can the US be expected to broker peace when they no longer have any moral authority? I would like to know what it is that President Bush stands for and whether he can equate this with his stance on this endless conflict. Peace!
LW, Denmark

It will take Palestinian goodwill for Powell's mission to be successful, because the US cannot expect to mediate and at the same time be the main financial and military ally of one of the parties involved. The EU is far better placed to mediate, because it has a far more neutral and informed approach towards the problem. If Powell's mission fails, Bush should pass the lead to the EU and he should force Sharon to comply.
Stijn, Belgium

The US can bring peace to the region. The will has to exist though. It is very much in the US and western interest not to leave this to fester and feed Muslim hatred towards it. The steps are simple. 1. Bring pressure to bear on Israel and the Arabs to cease fire. 2. Install unbiased international observers. 3. Pressure both Israel and the Palestinians to reach a settlement based on the 1967 borders. 4. Once the Palestinians have a real viable state, it will be in their interest to keep the peace and extremists like Sharon will fade away.
Dil, UK

I don't think they can. Israel founds its attacks on the view she is a victim, and so do the US in other known circumstances. Peace will have to come from Israel itself, by an emancipation of the victim state, a realization of the responsibility towards other people, the self restraint in the excise of power. Peace will come about once Israel measures itself by the standards they measure the rest of the world with. Maybe it would help if the US would ask them for this.
Laurenz Huesler, Switzerland

Is it not possible to convince Sharon that shooting people does not make the rest of the population peaceful?

Lee, England
In any other country in the world where forces have waded into to a land or province to "enforce" peace it has been rejected by the world at large. There was outcry here in Britain at the mere suggestion that the British Army was conducting a "shoot to kill" policy in Northern Ireland. Is it not possible to convince Sharon that shooting people does not make the rest of the population peaceful? The number of bombings is rising, maybe because that is how they choose to fight back. Find a compromise before the Jewish State itself is accused of genocide and the normal Palestinian people themselves have nowhere to live!
Lee, England

It seems quite clear that Israel's intelligence machinery in conjunction with the US intelligence machinery has engaged in widespread lies and propaganda against Iraq and Palestine. The recent intelligence report coming out of Israel regarding Iraq aiding the Palestinians to engage in "terrorist acts" in the region would be laughable if it weren't so funny. The whole world knows that Israel has been supplying the US with false intelligence date regarding the region. I am amazed that Tony Blair would fall in the trap of deception by Israel and the US to base his decision to invade Iraq.
Tony Millis, USA

US can only bring peace if it could legitimate its action in Afghanistan. There is one question US do not dare to ask Israel: how could Israeli troops distinguish a defender of his nation from a terrorist in their actions in Palestine? It is a big lie that they have only killed terrorists. The whole logic of world order has been changed. Israel's shameless action is only the first reaction on a chain of reactions to come!
Tao, Norway

I think the words of Colin Powell from this morning's meeting are particularly appropriate: 'Israel has a right to respond to terrorism - the question is how do we get past the response.'

John, UK
When the opinions within this Talking Point are as divided, divisive and confused as is self evident, how are the Americans supposed to broker or impose a solution? I think the words of Colin Powell from this morning's meeting are particularly appropriate: 'Israel has a right to respond to terrorism - the question is how do we get past the response.' Although personally still sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, the real opinion of the Israeli people, who are after all the only ones that really matter, has very much hardened against Palestinians during the weeks of suicide bombings. The US can no longer bring peace - it is seen as part of the problem.
John, UK

The US cannot bring peace to this region whilst it continues to pamper to the whims of the Saudi regime that supports Palestinian terrorists, including Arafat. The solution is for all Arab states, including Iraq and Syria to recognise The State of Israel within its 1967 borders and allow the Palestinian people the freedom of movement across the Middle East.
Russell, UK

America's solution to international affairs is to drop bombs. When they can't do that then they haven't got a clue what to do.

The US are the only nation Israel will remotely listen to but as to the question, will the US bring peace - the answer is no. This is all a political game to the US and Israel. Israel keeps up its illegal occupation and expanding its illegal settlement building. Israel will not be satisfied until they have their "Greater Israel" and the US sits back and supports this. When Saddam occupied Kuwait, Desert Storm took place and Kuwait was supposedly freed. How come, there is no Desert Storm to kick the Israelis out of the occupied territories?
Nadia, UK

No peace - no justice. Until Israel withdraws totally from Palestine, it will always be under threats of suicide bombings.
Mosaic, USA

The U.S. can help to bring peace, but it can't impose peace or make the two sides want to live together. Israel will have to make concessions and let the occupied territories be ruled independently by Palestine. The Palestinians will have to accept the idea of a Jewish state and agree to live with it. Whether these two things will happen is anybody's guess.
CJ Garrett, United States

The question is where is the UN? Doesn't its charter say to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war"?
Almaz H., USA

It is time that the European Union showed its political and economic muscle to end the fighting

George, USA
The US alone will not able to broker peace in the Middle East because we are looked upon by the Arab world as unconditional supporter of Israel. It is time that the European Union showed its political and economic muscle to end the fighting.
George, USA

Yasser Arafat has totally silenced the voices of ordinary Palestinians who are too frightened to speak out for peace for fear of reprisal. He has betrayed his own people. How can Colin Powell now press for an Israeli withdrawal? For Israel, this would mean an acceptance of continued terrorist suicide bombing attacks since Arafat has refused to agree to stop them as a prerequisite for a withdrawal. For America, the leader of the war against global terrorism, it would imply that terrorism must be fought all over the world except when it applies to Israel. My sympathy is with the ordinary Palestinians who are still suffering and have been betrayed for so long by Arafat's false agendas. What chance do they have to speak for peace?
David Sherman, Australia

Many people are defending Palestinian suicide bombings based on the idea that they are desperate? Don't you think Israelis are desperate too? Israel has offered Palestine peace only to have it thrown back in its face, and is being asked for restraint by many countries that do not even recognize its right to exist.
John, US

I don't know if the US can bring peace now, but given the fact we've been trying for years without success should provide some clue. President Clinton made it a top priority, only to see it fall apart at the end. So if massive involvement from Clinton, and little involvement from Bush both fail, how can anyone realistically expect the US to solve it now? But beyond this, why does everyone assume it is only the US's problem to solve? We have as much interest in the Middle East as Europe, yet hardly anyone expects Europe to do anything.
Tracy, USA

As with most conflicts throughout history the innocent have to pay for the transgressions and stubbornness of governments

James, USA
As evident in this forum, too many people choose sides based on emotion or political agendas. The fact of the matter is that both the Israelis and the Palestinians have created this situation. Both are equally wrong at times and equally right at times. The concept of the "he hit me so I hit him" attitude is best left on the playground. In a perfect world the UN would take the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, including Sharon and Arafat, and send them to a nice uninhabited island and let the Israeli and Palestinian populace attempt to achieve a rational peace. As with most conflicts throughout history the innocent have to pay for the transgressions and stubbornness of governments. As for the US taking a role - I have no illusions that our hands are clean in the goings-on in parts of the world since WWII, but how many of you would be screaming at us if we didn't send any envoys at all to attempt to broker peace?
James, USA

If the US stays out of an international event, we are accused of being uncaring, selfish, and isolationist. If we become involved, we are accused of being uncaring, selfish, and imperialistic. Either way, it's lose-lose for the US. The honest truth is that all anyone can hope to do is create a forum in which both sides see peace as more advantageous than war. I hope that the US can do this as it has in the past - not because I am from the US, but because peace is so badly needed in the Middle East. If the US can create such a forum, that would be fabulous. If some other nation can do it, that'd be great as well. But I am sceptical that anyone can do this at this time. It is important to understand the background of the conflict, but focusing solely on laying blame will not help the situation progress from the current tragedy. The importuning of outside forces will have little effect as long as people are determined to kill one another.
Kate, USA

The problem largely lies in the understanding of the Israeli people as to what is a just resolution to the issue of the occupied territories. I have heard many argue similar arguments to Nathan Wittenberg. He says "18 months ago, the former prime minister of Israel, offered the Palestinians a generous deal, but they rejected it." They then see this as a sign that Palestine doesn't want peace at all. Their reasoning seems to be that Israel is generously giving concessions on the occupied territories and so Palestine should do so also.

However, I have an analogy which I think is appropriate. Suppose one person steals $10 of another person and refuses to give it back. The two start fighting until eventually the thief offers to stop fighting if he gives $5 back. He argues, surely it's a fair compromise - you keep half, I keep half. It is clear though that the only fair solution is to return the full $10 as it was acquired by stealing in the first place. As for the "generous offer" it appears a lot less generous once you factor in the 100 metre buffers either side of roadways, the issue of East Jerusalem etc. Let's not forget that Palestine is only asking for 22% of the original Palestine anyway!
Justin, Australia

The US can help bring peace but only after both sides shed a lot more blood

Nathan Wittenberg, Israel
I think that the US can help bring peace to the Middle East. But before that the Palestinian people must agree to make peace with Israel. Most of the Arab world does not even recognise Israel, while most of the Palestinian people are opposed to the idea of the two countries and both sets of people cohabiting alongside one another. They want only one country - Palestine. I want to remind you that 18 months ago, the former prime minister of Israel, offered the Palestinians a generous deal, but they rejected it. History has taught us that the Palestinians will agree to make peace with Israel only after they realise that they cannot destroy Israel by force. So, I am sorry to say that it will happen only after both sides shed a lot more blood.
Nathan Wittenberg, Israel

Peace will come only when the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories ends and the UN resolutions are applied. It is apparent to everyone that the cause of what happened and what is happening now is occupation. The US always talks about the international legitimacy and the necessity of applying the UN resolutions against Iraq, but there is never any word about Israel. It is obvious - give the Palestinians their land and you will get peace.
Jamil, Syria

How come the US and Nato don't take military action against Israel, when it repeatedly flouts international law and doesn't adhere to UN resolutions? There are so many double standards here.
Abu Hamzahr, UK

The Israelis don't want peace. If that ever changes then there may be a chance for the US, UN or EU to help broker a peace, but as long as Israel wants war, the fighting will go on.
Ewan, England

America will never bring peace to the Middle East because it is too paranoid and mistrustful of political systems that challenge the concept of capitalist democracy

Jack, England
America will never bring peace to the Middle East. It is tragically incapable of bringing peace to anywhere. America is itself, too paranoid and mistrustful of political systems that challenge the concept of capitalist democracy. The only reason that America becomes involved in world politics at all is to spread its consumerist agenda - look at Japan and South East Asia in the wake of WW2. Few of us in the West, in our comfortable houses, and closeted lives, have any idea what it is like to be stateless or oppressed. So how can we possibly understand the plight of the Palestinian people? Do people think that Israel was suddenly created from a void?

The state of Israel was created by depopulating and bulldozing what was then Palestine, with the blessing of a United Kingdom that was war weary and lacking the political will to resist Israel's highly organised terrorist campaign. Of course, those terrorists have gone down in history as glorious freedom fighters, like the French resistance, and now are now the people in power, leading the state of Israel into a conflict that will, on its present course, end only with the death of every last Palestinian or Israeli.

Contrary to the opinion of some of my fellow contributors here, I believe that every race of people involved in this situation ultimately wish for peace, but I believe that true peace can only be achieved through mutual trust, and an acceptance of political, and ideological diversity. There are vast regions of this planet, populated by individuals who do not believe in Western capitalist democracy, and either through religion, or ethos, have successful lives without the trappings of consumerism. If I were living in an 'occupied England', I would like to think that I would have the courage to resist that occupation, with whatever means I had at my disposal, so I therefore reject the demonisation of the Palestinian freedom fighters, and look with shame at the British government's spineless capitulation to American-backed Israeli expansionism.
Jack, England

I'm afraid that Bush will let this horror escalate just long enough to drive up oil prices to the point where he can pass his domestic legislation to begin massive oil drilling in the Alaskan wilderness preserves. Don't know if you friends in the UK knew this is a big item on his agenda to pay back all his oil industry buddies.
Melanie, San Jose, CA, USA

Israel is a country that rightly or wrongly fears for its survival and safety on a day-to-day basis. This is the main reason the occupation still occurs. If only the Arab nations would truly put pressure on the Palestinian Authority and quit supporting terrorist groups that target civilians rather than soldiers, then and only then will the US force Israel to end the occupation.
Jason, US

How could Palestinians trust their enemy to present real peace?

Bill, US
No, I don't think the US could bring peace to the Middle East, simply because of its foreign policy! The US made no room for Arab nations to trust them in the peace process by supporting Israel in giving weapons, warplanes and more obviously, by their media reporting the events unilaterally in favour of Israel. It's mostly believed that Bush is the main person to give Israel the green light and is ignoring the genocide happening in the occupied territories. What the US has done in this recent wild period of violence has bought time for Sharon to do whatever he wants. The US and Israel have brought them nothing but a real hell for more than 50 years; how could Palestinians trust their enemy to present them with real peace?
Bill, US

The people that will bring peace are those that fight each other. The US can only be the mediator and supply the ground for the two sides to talk. I would like to remind every one that the US in the past couple of years has been showing equal political support to both sides here. True, we don't sell weapons to Palestine, but they do end up with some American-made equipment.
Tim Renfro, US

I don't understand why the West can't call a spade a spade here. Israel is an outlaw nation and has been for at least 35 years. It is the living proof that those who are oppressed do not necessarily have mercy on those who are oppressed.
Matthew, France (English)

Bush's Middle East policy has been blunt, without nuance and idiotic

Peter Vevang, US
After 11 September, Bush was proclaimed by many in the media to have suddenly become a 'brilliant leader'. Unfortunately, people do not change overnight. When he was first elected I told my friends that his ultimate downfall would be that he is not too bright. Bush's Middle East policy has been blunt, without nuance and idiotic to the point of being borderline incompetent. It is too late for Powell to find a peaceful solution. The best he can do is salvage a ceasefire from the chaos.
Peter Vevang, US

The politicians of the past and present sure have things screwed up in the Middle East. It's time for a totally new approach! Have a totally open forum where both sides present their needs with nothing done in the back room or under the table. The Palestinians and Israelis each select six negotiators and two news outlets to cover the forum. Each side can present its case. Any unresolved issues can be decided by the UN. Make it a no-spin zone. It seems Israelis want security and Palestinians want a state. A totally open forum in public view will insure quick and honest results.
Allen Morgan, US

Sharon does not have peace in mind

Susan, Ohio, US
As an American taxpayer, I do feel somewhat responsible for the weaponry that is wiping out whole villages of Palestinians and adding to the frustrations of the Palestinian people. I have always been a staunch supporter of the Jews but after reading the Israelis' sterile description of their atrocities inflicted upon the Palestinians, it is clear Sharon does not have peace in mind. Peace keeping forces should have been implemented after the Camp David Accords but Israel did not want that and unfortunately the UN did not force the issue. When a country will not let reporters film their actions or give actual first hand accounts, you know there is something a country is trying to hide. If the US would cut off their annual aid to Israel and the UN send in peace keepers during the peace brokering, then maybe something could be accomplished.
Susan, Ohio, US

When did the US ever bring peace? Enforcing a situation beneficial to themselves or their friends, maybe, using whichever stick is most effective, but peace per se is not within its frame of reference.
Mick, UK

If Israel would operate like the US in Afghanistan, the operation would be finished in 3-4 days

Vladimir Beker, Israel
Today's bus bombing is the direct answer of Palestinians to withdraw from Tul-Karem and Kalkiliya. If Israel would operate like the US in Afghanistan, the operation would be finished in three to four days. But Israel cannot allow to itself the same percentage of killed innocent inhabitants. That's why our soldiers are killed in Jenin (the US didn't send soldiers to Afghanistan or Iraq before the hard work of the air force). That's why this operation takes a long time. In fact, that's why all European countries are so angry - they want to hear the words 'quiet' and 'peace' without thinking what it means.
Vladimir Beker, Israel

I am deeply sceptical of whether or not General Powell's mission will bring any sort of peace to the Middle East for one main reason. Far too many people on both sides of sides of this debate, meaning ardent supporters of the Palestinians and the Israelis, are convinced that their side is 100 per cent justified in their actions. Sharon's continued heavy-handed tactics, and continued homicide/suicide attacks by militant groups show that there are many who don't want peace. Peace would mean the end the problem that they have formed their entire identity and sense of self-purpose around. When people on both sides of this debate continue to show their unwavering support for their tactics, they only empower them to continue. If this problem was so simple that blame could be fully attributed to just one side, the problem probably would have been solved long ago.
Tom, Washington, DC US

I think Israel should stop always playing the nice guy when attacked

Paul M, US
I think Israel should stop always playing the nice guy when attacked. My studies from 1967 and 1973 and the Gulf War show that each time they have bent to pressure from the US to end their defence prior to it completing its course. Where did that leave them? We do not live in the area yet we try to tell them what to do. Israel did not tell us to get out of Vietnam, Korea or Grenada. We should do likewise. There is no Nato or Arab League to support Israel in terms of troops so we need to let them fight their battles their way.
Paul M, US

To Paul M, what are you talking about? Arab leaders have been condemning terrorists since day one. Of course you don't hear about it because you watch the American media, which, only shoes what happens to Israel. You also seem to forget that democracies also have terrorists, for example, the IRA, ETA. The Arabs have been condemning Ariel Sharon. I condemn suicide bombing, but tell me this, what is more powerful, a small bomb or a F-16 helicopter and tanks?
Yassen, Morocco

The US supports Israel because it is the only real democracy in the region. I'm not condoning Israel's behaviour, but US support would not be so unbalanced if other countries in the region entered the 21st century and established democracies. The US is far more likely to protect another democracy than a monarchy or a dictatorial regime. Another aspect is the large and powerful Jewish population in the US. They vote, so politicians try to please them. As the Muslim population in the US grows and surpasses the Jewish population, the world will see a major shift in US policy in the Middle East.
Shawn, Washington, DC, US

Show me one Arab leader who has publicly stated that terrorism must stop for the peace process to begin. This is a lynching of the Israelis by a mob of terrorists and those that publicly support Palestinians, publicly support terrorism.
Paul M, US

Personally I think that all Arab countries should take back the Jewish refugees that were kicked out. And America should stop giving aid and arms to Egypt and Saudi Arabia as these are two terror-supporting states.
Allan, UK

Good to see the US turnaround; they are getting much more realistic in seeing that Sharon is also a huge part of the problem

Mark, Australia
Good to see the US turnaround; they are getting much more realistic (for whatever Iraqi reasons?) in seeing that Sharon is also a huge part of the problem. Basically his campaign of state-sponsored terrorism and destruction of the PA infrastructure has reduced the fledging Palestinian state to chaos, failure and anger in their attempts to gain independence. Whilst totally condemning the suicide bombings. Do we really expect them to do nothing whilst 1600 Palestinians had died up to operation defensive wall? Sharon has hijacked the war on terror to propagate his own aims. Sounds a little bit like Milosevic to me!
Mark, Australia

Do Europeans ever stop and wonder why university educated Americans always disagree with them on the Middle East? Ignorant ill-educated Europeans should not be making comments about subjects they know nothing about save 15 minutes a day of watching BBC.
Jo, Harvard, US

To Jo, Harvard, US I find it a bit rich that an American should call Europe ill-educated. For most Americans Israel is probably the only country they know outside the US. The average European has a far better chance of knowing where Kosovo, Rwanda or East Timor than their US counterpart. Our television news and newspapers cover the whole world everyday in some detail. 15 minutes from the BBC is probably ten times longer than any US station puts out.
Stephen , UK

The US is the only state which can bring peace to the Middle East provided that it is determined to do so. It is so fashionable to blame everything that went wrong in the Middle East on the US as it appears in the forum. Those in the UK, why don't you have a look back in the history of the Middle East and engage in a bit of self-criticism? What about other Arab states, Jordan, Syria? They might have killed even more Palestinians than the Israelis did.
Ipek , Turkey

A strong UN peace force is the only way to bring peace to the region, not the US.
Charles, US

Whether the US can bring peace to the Middle East is wholly separate from the question of will the US do so. It seems clear from the partial Israeli pullout that the Israelis are highly obedient to Washington's commands. The problem thus resides in the US' acquiescence to the Sharon government's desire to subjugate the Palestinian people. The Americans have repeatedly shown that they are incapable of acting as impartial and honest broker.
C. Davidson, US

How we define terrorism will always depend on our perspective

Mike, UK
Unfortunately, we in the UK and Northern Ireland have seen for far too long that fighting terrorism with occupational tactics and a traditional army just increases the terrorists' determination to succeed. How we define terrorism will always depend on our perspective, and despite the excellent press coverage, few of us understand the situation in Palestine well enough to make clear judgements as to who is at fault (it does take two to tango...).
Mike, UK

Are you kidding me? How come the US will bring peace in Middle East when there is no balance in support? It's simply not possible.
Razib, US

A simple solution. The US should tell Israel to withdraw to the 67 borders and pull back its settlers. Then tell Arafat to denounce terrorism and put an end to Hamas and the other terrorist organisations. Then if a suicide bomber detonates himself and kills Israelis, not only should we support an Israeli incursion into Palestinian towns for pre-emptive strikes against terrorist but we should commit US forces to it.

The US will never bring peace in the Middle East unless it ends its biased support for Israel. And until it stops supporting Sharon's massacres in Palestine, which are taking place right now. Hundreds of people are being killed, a terrorist act that is going to create more freedom fighter the so-called suicide bombers.
James, UK

When is the US going to see that so-called terrorism is the only weapon left to the Palestinian people?

David, UK
When is the US going to see that so-called terrorism is the only weapon left to the Palestinian people? They are a people living under an occupation that the world has done nothing about.
David, UK

It seems to be that it is en vogue to be anti-American. Get over it! We are all apart of the same hypocrisy. While I appreciate the European point of view, I am getting a little annoyed with this Monday morning quarterbacking. First of all, the US does give Israel aid, but we also give the same amount to Egypt which few people seem to realise in this commentary. Instead of just listening to one side of a story open your eyes and understand the whole problem.
Shaquina, US

To Shaquina of the US, the conflict is not between Israel and Egypt. It is between Israel and the Palestinians who get no military aid from the US. Nobody puts US arms shipments to Israel on television for display. The Palestinians have had their land stolen or taken away based on the ridiculous preteens that God gave it to the Jews.
Alex, US

Shaquina - another American trying to tell the rest of us how to behave. US aid - maybe Egypt does receive as much as Israel, but then they aren't using it to occupy and kill. Think about it.
Alex, HK

The US should stop supporting Israel financially as it has been doing for many years now. All money that Israel has been getting to kill Palestinians comes from the US. The world should be ashamed of what's happening with the poor Palestinians.
Dana, UK

History dictates there will never be peace and tranquillity in the region unless the current system of apartheid and racism displayed by the Israeli state and many western countries is totally replaced.
Altaf, UK

What is wrong with this picture? The Oslo accord is shunned, the UN is laughed at, Bush is ignored while the world watches in horror. Obviously Israel has a much larger expansionist agenda than most countries would care to admit
Frank, USA

The US is the main reason that Israel has not followed the original UN resolutions

Brendan, UK/Australia
The US is the main reason that Israel has not followed the original UN resolutions which were also weakened by Israeli friends (too much latitude regarding negotiation about borders). They know that the US will not allow others to browbeat them into compliance. Perhaps the current round of violence will either confirm or negate this viewpoint. I will believe the US is on the right side when they insist on removal of the Israeli settlements.
Brendan, UK/Australia

The US can't bring peace in Middle East but they can do something to shrink the current conflict. How? By stopping backing Israel and interfering in the two countries' problems. At the end, the only government who can stop this is the Israeli government.
Meldy, Netherlands

I think that the only thing that could trigger a proper peace process is for the Arabic world to stick together and hold back oil exports. When the Western world will see that the oil prices go up, they will have to acknowledge that they can not rule the world as they please.
Jens, Norway

Until you dump your paranoid conspiracy fantasies in the dustbin of history where they belong, cease glorifying the genocidal mentality of serial-killing terrorists, and stop ignoring far worse and far more systematic human rights abuses by Israel's anti-democratic neighbours, there can be no progress.
Henry Case, UK

The US is the obstacle for peace which using the veto in the UN which helped the Israeli to continue with their terror. No peace in sight now!
Siva, Canada

Nothing will happen in the area until both Sharon and Arafat are gone. Both support terror as a political tool and that is not an option in today's society. Unfortunately I see Israel withdrawing over the next week, then the suicide attacks will begin again. This time Israel will go in to kill Arafat.
Phil, UK

Israel is now seeking to defend itself against a brutal and cynical campaign of terrorism

Tomer Schwartz, Israel
Article 51 of the UN Charter provides for the "inherent right of States to self-defence". This is what Israel is now seeking to do - to defend itself against a brutal and cynical campaign of terrorism, which Arafat had conducted against its citizens until some days ago. "Surprisingly" since the Israeli operation was launched, there have been no terror attacks within Israel. Is this not a successful self-defence?
Tomer Schwartz, Israel

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