Yasser Arafat has been reduced to one floor of his compound by Israeli troops. The point of this, to hear the Israelis tell it, is to isolate the Palestinian leader — a move they obviously think will help.

I'm not sure I see how. If the Israelis think of Arafat as an enemy, but one they don't want to kill, they should just ship him out and let someone else take control of the Palestinian Authority.

If Arafat is isolated with nothing but his telephone, he certainly cannot implement a cease-fire. He can't convince young Palestinian freelancers to forego their suicide missions. He can't do much of anything except demonstrate his helplessness.

On the other hand — if he's sent off to Libya, or Iraq, or somewhere — then the Israelis and the Americans can deal with someone else.

Then the personal hatred between Arafat and Sharon will not be an issue. After all, it was Sharon who recently said he regretted not killing Arafat twenty years ago when he — Sharon — went all the way to Beirut to root out the PLO.

When that half-century-old personal beef is off the table, there may be a chance that an American president will be listened to by a Palestinian leader and an Israeli leader. Right now, it's apparent that neither Sharon nor Arafat cares in the least what George W. Bush and Colin Powell have to say.

So the problem becomes... once Arafat is shipped off, who will be the new Palestinian leader? A member of Hamas, the self-proclaimed leaders of the suicide bombing movement?

Well, maybe that is better. At least you know Hamas actually controls the bombers, and has the power to stop them.

The point is that the U.S. has other interests that it must take care of, and it can't let this horrible problem keep us from dealing with countries that are lining up to bring more horrible problems to our doorstep. (Those would be Iraq and Iran.)

The remaining question is whether solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem would in itself solve our terror problem. Would it help quiet down Arab anger over our support of Israel to the point where we would no longer worry about young Arab men running planes into our buildings?

My answer? No. Usama bin Laden was ticked at us way before he ever took up the Palestinian cause, and as long as we need to protect that Saudi oil, he and his kind will continue to hate us with a limitless passion.

That's My Word.

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