Many Arabs and Western liberals have been criticizing President George Bush for not starting yet another peace initiative since he took office. They have obviously forgotten the failed attempt by President Bill Clinton. The symbolism of these peace attempts are a game that many parties have been playing for years and I do not believe that President Bush will fall into that trap. President Bush will move only when the time is ripe and Arabs are truly ready for peace.



Much of this talk is meant to embarrass and pressure Bush for not trying to solve the Middle East crisis. The critics obviously do not understand that President Bush does not deal with symbolic peace efforts and photo-ops for the sake of his own legacy.



Arabs who have sabotaged every peace plan are the most critical of Bush for not pressuring Israel to give more concessions. To Arabs, peace is getting America to pressure Israel to withdraw without guarantees. The West needs to ask a similar question to surrounding Arab countries: why don't the surrounding Arab countries pressure Palestinians to live in peace with Israel? Why don't they stop aiding and financing terrorism coming out of the West Bank and Gaza? Arab countries should be asked not only by our government, but also by world media, about when they will stop meddling in the internal affairs of the Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza; when they will truly accept the territorial sovereignty of Israel? Palestinians cannot make peace with Israel if Arab countries continue to reward and promote Palestinian terrorism inside Israel.



Yasser Arafat was a product of old Arab nationalism and his vision of a solution was in the context of what other Arab nations dictated. His loyalty was to the greater Arab cause and the suffering of the Palestinians was the fuel that kept the flames of Jihad going. We are not yet sure what kind of leadership will now arise and what the Arabs will allow. The forces that oppose peace in the Arab world are formidable.



Since the creation of Israel, expectations and pressure on Palestinians have been extremely high. Gaza was under the control of Egypt, while the West Bank was under Jordan from 1948 to 1967. The surrounding Arab countries shamed, bribed, pampered and abused Palestinians to resist and fight Israel. Having lived in Gaza as a child, I heard Egyptians accusing all Palestinians of collaborating with the Zionists and of being untrustworthy for that reason. In a culture based on pride and shame, Palestinians were blamed for the loss of land. They were put on the defensive and were motivated to get their honor back by terrorizing Israel. Palestinian pride and reputation was on the line. Those who crossed the borders from Gaza into Israel to conduct personal business were imprisoned, branded as traitors and some were even killed on the spot.



Very few people know that the Palestinians' first intifada was against the Egyptian authorities in Gaza, as a result of the oppressive regime of President Gamal Abd El-Nasser of Egypt. Arabs of Gaza rioted against Nasser's jailing of many and using Gaza to attack Israel without the necessary precautions to protect the civilians. Palestinian civilians were the victims of Nasser's ambition.



In the tiny strip of Gaza, Palestinians were sandwiched between Israel and the rest of the Arab world, which did not allow them to move out, with a visa required even to visit Egypt, the country that ruled over them. The infrastructure and economy in both the West Bank and Gaza were neglected by the Arabs, who only gave them weapons and rewarded them for terrorism. The Gabalya refugee camp in Gaza that I saw as a child still exists today under the same name and conditions since 1948. Palestinians have been simply exploited and sacrificed as the front line of Arab jihad. They were prevented from assimilating or accepting Israel and were offered no place else to go. I do not see Palestinians line up for work on the borders of Egypt, Jordan or Saudi Arabia. But I see them line up for work in Israel. They need the work, which is only offered to them by the very country they are terrorizing.



The Arab world has hurt Palestinians long enough, and created a culture of terror whose people cannot even remember what normal society is. It is time for Palestinians to wise up and understand that Israel could be a partner and not an enemy. Yasser Arafat was more loyal to Arab dictators who financed him than to the welfare of his own people. It is time for that people to decide on their fate and stop being the sacrificial lamb of the oil-rich Arab world.