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A Right And Humane Thing To Do

The president says he will finally publish the long-delayed American plan for settling the Arab-Israeli conflict, maybe as early as this week.

At first that doesn't sound like much, but brush away the diplomatic jargon and what it means is that once and for all, the United States is not only endorsing the concept of a Palestinian state and a homeland for the Palestinian people, but is now on the record to make it happen by a specific date, 2005.

That is a big deal. It is what British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been pushing, and there's little doubt the president spoke up mainly to help Blair, in big trouble back home for siding with the United States to disarm Saddam.

But whatever the reason, this is a right and humane thing to do, and good for us as well as the Palestinians.

I've never been neutral on the Middle East. I have long taken the Israeli side when they say Israel has a right to exist, and that its people are entitled to live in safety, but so do the Palestinians.

Putting the United States squarely behind the concept of a Palestinian homeland now, before an attack on Iraq, if there is one, and promising to follow through, is the best way to demonstrate to the Muslim world that we intend to be even-handed in a post-Saddam era, and that we understand there can be no true peace until all who live in the region have some hope of a better world for their children.

If we can convince them that we are sincere about that, we will be far safer from terrorism than barricades and metal detectors can ever make us.