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"World War III" is what America is calling the battle that the United States and its allies are about to wage against international terror and the countries that support it. Not a world war with respect to the number of casualties - at least one hopes so - but a world war in terms of importance for the future of the world. America, the slumbering giant, brutally awakened from its torpor, is climbing to its feet, gearing up for the third time to save the free world from a danger that has become life-threatening.

As part of the free world and a country plagued by terrorist attacks, Israel can only welcome this American awakening. But Israel has another reason to eye the approaching war with hope: It may reverse the fortunes of this country in a very dramatic and very favorable way. Just as World War I produced the Balfour Declaration, and World War II led to the UN Partition Plan and the establishment of a Zionist state, "World War III" could bring about the final realization of the Zionist dream: a peace settlement between Israel and its neighbors.

World wars and the new order imposed in their wake create shortcuts in the normal flow of history. As the horror of war ends, the hour turns propitious: There is a brief period when the victor can bring the ax down and end problems that have been dragging on for generations, cutting through the normal political and diplomatic encrustations.

Not that it always works. At Versailles, the Allies made bold decisions about the future of defeated Germany but, in doing so, sowed the seeds of calamity. On the other hand, this post-war decisiveness was Zionism's salvation. If not for World War I, it is hard to imagine the Balfour Declaration being bestowed on a movement as puny and problematic as the Zionist movement.

True, the Zionists did not get everything they wanted back then. Far from it. But they did receive a reasonable offer from the victorious Allies, and were sensible enough to understand that they had no choice but to accept it. In practice, the same scenario repeated itself after World War II. The victors decided to partition Palestine between the two contenders. Later, they decided to acquiesce in the fact that the Jews, who accepted the Partition Plan and were attacked anyway, emerged from the war with more land than they had been allotted originally.

Today Israel needs another historical shortcut, a fast track to a peace treaty with the neighboring people, without which the future of the Zionist enterprise cannot be assured. For a whole year now, ever since the failure of Camp David - owing to Yasser Arafat's dwarfishness as a statesman and a leader - Israel has been waiting for the tide of history to sweep Arafat off the stage. Meanwhile, however, the current is sluggish, Israel bleeds and the weight of the occupation still hangs around its neck like a millstone. In the course of this difficult year, many Israelis have begun to worry whether we can keep going in the face of history's frustrating slowness.

But here it comes: the longed-for burst of speed. They say that history never offers a second chance. And yet history is doing just that, and being very lavish about it, too: The Bush family is being given a chance to wrap up President Bush senior's unfinished business from 1990; Arafat is being given a chance, despite everything, to lead his people toward an acceptable agreement with Israel; and Israel itself is being given a chance to shed the noxious burden of occupation and restore itself to health.

The fools who danced a virtual jig on the red roofs of the settlements upon hearing Bush's cries for vengeance are living under the illusion that eliminating the Islamic terror organizations, including those of the Palestinians, will eradicate the national aspirations of the Palestinian people. They have blithely gone back to dreaming their dangerous fantasies of Greater Israel.

Fortunately though, the United States, newly determined and energized in the prosecution of its "World War III," may not see things this way. With the winds of global combat blowing in Washington, purported campaign considerations in Jeb Bush's reelection bid as governor of Florida will no longer be top priority for the administration (nor indeed for the voters of Florida).

America, as a fighter and a victor, may hopefully bring the ax down here, as in other problematic regions. The two sides, the Zionists and the Arabs, will be asked to sign an agreement - a kind of "take-it-or-leave-it" offer. For the Zionists - and also for the Arabs, if they wise up this time - it will be a moment of grace. A last chance, perhaps, for a reasonably acceptable fulfillment of their dreams.