So who is responsible for the Palestinian suicide bombers who have precipitated this latest overwhelming Israeli military incursion into Palestinian lands?

That's easy. Yasser Arafat.

Documents show daily requisitions for bombs, bullets, and print flyers proclaiming the martyr status of teenage suicide bombers. But it's more than that... it's also Saddam Hussein, who has upped the cash payout to the families of suicide bombers from $10,000 to $25,000. That's a lot of incentive for a teenager from an impoverished family. It could take care of them for a long time.

So Arafat and Saddam… that's two.

Are the Americans responsible for the current crisis? The Arabs say yes, because we won't lean on the Israelis any harder to get them to lay off.

I must say that seems like a little much to me. President Bush doesn't trust Arafat, but he has said that if Arafat stops the bombers, the U.S. will return to its shepherd role, and get the Palestinians — more or less — what they turned down the last time around when Bill Clinton tried to get them their own state.

It's fairly plain that Arafat preferred intifadah to peace and nationhood. He wanted more, perhaps. He wanted Israel completely gone, perhaps.

Nobody can expect the U.S. to contribute to the eradication of Israel, not even the Arab-tilting Europeans.

Now... does Israel bear some responsibility for the bombers?

Thomas Friedman, writing in The New York Times, suggested that maybe — just maybe — the issue of Jewish settlements in Palestinian lands was a cause for a lot of Palestinian anger and discontent.

Friedman says that if the U.S. and Israel recognized what a serious provocation it is to build Jewish settlements in the very lands that are being offered to the Palestinians as their homeland, maybe the threat of suicide bombings would be diminished.

Somebody is going to tell me I'm a simpleton, and that this is not the reason the Palestinians hate Israelis so much. I'm sure there are even more reasons… some good, some bad.

But the settlement issue is a big one, and as long as we're talking about what went so wrong here, maybe we ought to talk about that one a little louder.

We gotta go clean up some terror messes. Saddam is one. Arafat is another.

But Israel is engaged in operation protective fence, and when it's over, they should build housing projects only on their side of the fence.

That's My Word.

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