Friday's suicide bombing was a message from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

It was Arafat's way of saying: I'm going to bog you down so bad you can't even lift your feet.

Powell is going to do something diplomatic, and I have no idea what. If he could have gotten Arafat to rein in the bus bombers, then maybe Powell could have gotten Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to reciprocate.

But now? Forget it. Ain't gonna happen.

So the question becomes... what does Arafat want?

He evidently doesn't want a Palestinian state, because he turned down an offer that his own staff thought he should have accepted.

He evidently wants to continue to war against Israel, hoping Sharon will crush the Palestinians so relentlessly that the world will recoil in horror, further isolating Israel. The U.S. will spend a lot of time trying to fix things, which will give Saddam Hussein plenty of time to finish his bomb.

So the question for President Bush right now is not whether he can deal with Arafat, but whether a superpower can — to use a phrase from the Gerald Ford days — chew gum and walk at the same time.

Chewing gum is doing whatever seems necessary regarding the Israeli-Palestinian thing, recognizing that Israel is going to press its case against Arafat's bus bombers as vigorously as it wants. Walking is going ahead with the campaign against Saddam.

What cannot happen is a stand-down on the campaign against Iraq.

Some of the spook types say Saddam is less than a year away from a payload device that will make us all very sorry we waited an extra day to move against him.

Saddam is causing us to stall by funding Palestinian bus bombers. He's giving them money, along with the Saudis — that sorry excuse for a country — to bog us down so that he, Saddam, has enough time to build the device with which he will be able to terrorize or blackmail the world.

Bush has to do both things at once, and give up even the faintest hope he's going to bring Arafat around. Arafat is working for Saddam, so we have to let Israel press on and move on with what we have to do, not worrying about the carping from the Muslim world... which would be happy to see Saddam beat us.

That's My Word.

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