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"The United States must recognize its responsibility in what is going on in the region," stated Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, on Tuesday, during his visit to Jordan. "The Arab states have waited enough. The Arabs invested all their efforts in furthering the peace." In other words, it is now the turn of others, and especially the U.S.

In a Jordanian television talk-show program, the publicist Sultan al-Hitab expressed his disappointment at the absence of any political message from the Palestinian Authority or Arab capitals. "There is talk of joint action, of the need to respond, but there is no political strategy." Later in the program he wondered, "what do we want the U.S. to do when there is no Arab political strategy?"

In another program, on Saudi television, a commentator calls on the Arabs to present one of two plans of action: either a political plan, if it has a chance, or a military one. In other words, either war or peace: "If it's a matter of shedding blood, it should be not only the Palestinians who shed their blood. The Israelis and the U.S. must also suffer."

"Either America or war. This appears to be the option facing the Arabs today," a member of the Egyptian research center, Al-Ahram tells Ha'aretz. "From their [the Arabs] point of view, the dialogue with Israel is over and the sole option left is the United States. In this there is a contradiction in the logic of the Arab States who have lost the superpower that they thought was also theirs, and apparently no longer have any support in the world. They claim that America has abandoned them, but at the same time they are convinced that America will hear them. What do they actually want from the American administration? To slap Israel, break its bones, or return it to the negotiating table, guarantee the agreements and determine the American agenda in the Middle East? If the first option is genuine, then we can forget about the second. But if on the other hand the Arab states want a process, they can start one themselves."

The Arab dilemma stems from the fact that the Arab states are incapable of serving as a superpower that can behave toward the Palestinians the same way the U.S. behaves toward Israel. "Can Egypt, or Jordan, or even Saudia and the rest of the Gulf States really embargo the U.S. or at least dictate an Arab agenda to it, or can they at most make a lot of noise and, at the end of the day, return with their hands raised in desperation, and conclude that America is against the Arabs?" wondered the Egyptian researcher.

In other words, can the Palestinian problem be allowed to disrupt the balance in relations between the Arab states and the U.S.? Are the Arab states willing to pay the price in political losses because of the Palestinian problem?

For the time being this Arab dilemma has no clear answer. Some in the Arab world assertively talk of the Arab oil threat, of an embargo on American products, on partially cutting contacts in the way Saudi Arabia has done, or perhaps unilaterally lifting sanctions against Iraq - as ways of punishing the American administration for its support of Israel. For now this is not the stance of the leadership, who are making efforts to formulate a proposal that will at least result in a cease-fire.

The assumption of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah, is that when they achieve a cease-fire Israel will be forced to propose a political plan, or at least stick to the Mitchell Plan, and then, either its true colors will be exposed or a peace process will begin. In any case, the burden of proof will then pass to Israel. If such a situation is created, they hope, the United States will no longer be able to observe the area from afar but will have to participate and bring its full weight to bear.

"This is the second error in the logic of the Arabs," the Egyptian researcher says. "If they believe that American pressure can push Sharon toward the negotiating table, there is no point denouncing him as a criminal and a murderer, because they will have to sit with him [for talks] in the end. And if they believe that no pressure will help, why ruin their relations with the U.S.?"