Toward February 30

President Bush has made up his mind to go to the campaign. The opposition to the war, in the United Nations and on the street, will at most influence the timing, at the end of the shortest month.

On October 12, 2000, the same day as the Ramallah lynch, former U.S. general Jay Garner and 52 of his colleagues, retired generals and admirals, signed a statement of support for the Israel Defence Forces, saying, "We, the undersigned, believe that during the current upheavals in Israel, the Israel Defense Forces have exercised remarkable restraint in the face of lethal violence orchestrated by the leadership of a Palestinian Authority that deliberately pushes civilians and young people to the front lines. The security of the State of Israel is a matter of great importance to U.S. policy in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, as well as around the world. A strong Israel is an asset that American military planners and political leaders can rely on. The determination of Israelis to protect their country and pursue a fair and workable peace with their neighbors at the same time was evident. The enemy must decide to put down his weapons - rocks as well as rifles - and make peace in good faith. The Palestinian-initiated violence in Israel now strongly tells us that the necessary good faith is sorely lacking on the Palestinian side. America's role as facilitator in this process should never yield to America's responsibility as a friend to Israel, the only country in the Middle East that shares our democratic and humanitarian values. Friends don't leave friends on the battlefield."

The public sympathy expressed by Garner, who was part of a delegation that visited Israel in 1998, reflects the success of JINSA, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs for bringing together Israel, American Jewry, and the senior American military echelon. Garner, who was one of the commanders in the U.S. Patriot deployment during the 1991 war and commanded aid to the Kurds and others in Northern Iraq at the end of that war, was last month named as the government coordinator in the liberated territories - not, heaven forbid, the occupied territories. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who in the last decade headed a national commission on American space needs, appointed Garner, who was on that commission, to head the new administration at the Pentagon in charge of rehabilitating and aiding civilian Iraq after the war.

President Bush has made up his mind to go to the campaign. The opposition to the war, in the United Nations and on the street, will at most influence the timing, at the end of the shortest month. The 1991 war ended on February 28, a convenient date to pick up where it was left off. This time the war will begin on "February 30," a date that doesn't appear on the calendar, since February 29 will only show up again in 2004 after three years' vacation; it's a target date like injury time in a football game, after the 90th minute, but before the whistle is blown.

The inter-departmental planning in the Bush administration, for Iraq after the war, is very detailed and precise on paper, but will be tested when it comes up against the chaos expected on the ground. In a report to congress last month, Rumsfeld's deputy for policy, Douglas Feith, said that in addition to smashing Saddam Hussein's regime and the infrastructure of weapons of mass destruction in the country, Bush is committed to the territorial integrity of sovereign Iraq and to put it on the path to "freedom and prosperity."

The Americans won't desert Iraq "prematurely," without helping to fix what was broken during the war, nor "too late," hated as occupiers. Among its tasks, Garner's coordination mechanism will run an Iraqi version of the de-Nazification program in occupied Germany - filtering officialdom and officers of the Saddam era, to be reused in the new Iraq.

Rumsfeld, Feith and Garner are anti-Saddam and anti-Arafat, as opposed to anti-Palestine. And so is Bush. In the ruckus over Iraq, an important document was issued under his signature last month, National Strategy for Combating Terrorism. Bush offers up a stew of threats and offerings to countries that harbor terrorists, led by Syria and Iran. He promises to punish them if they stick to the life of crime, and alternatively, to wipe out the criminal record for those who find religion. "A checkered past does not foreclose future membership in the coalition against terrorism," says the document.

The Palestinians can expect the same, because, Bush says, "Finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a critical component to winning the war of ideas - America stands committed to an independent and democratic Palestine, living beside Israel in peace and security." The way toward that, after Saddam's fall, is the elimination of Arafat, who might appoint a Palestinian prime minister, but, in effect, will be Arafat as Richard Nixon incriminated by Watergate: his impeachment was possible as soon as Gerald Ford, weak but clean, became the vice president who would inherit him.