When Palestinians Become Finns

Bush, like Sharon, is waiting for the Palestinians to turn into Finns.

President George Bush is the exact opposite of the aged Japanese soldier who, after several decades, emerges from the jungle to discover that the war has ended. With Bush, the war ends frequently, and once it has ended it surprisingly goes on: Only two months after it broke out, he hastened to put on a fancy windbreaker, to get up on the deck of an aircraft carrier and to announce to America and the rest of the world that "the mission in Iraq has been completed." The same thing happened when Saddam Hussein was captured, when the Iraqis voted for the governing council, and voted to ratify the new constitution.

Last week, America lost its 2,000th soldier in the unfinished war. No one can say for say for sure how many Iraqis have been killed to date; it may be about 100,000. True, Iraq and the entire world have gotten rid of a murderous tyrant, but he has been supplanted by a reality that is no less murderous, and maybe more so. At the current rate of carnage, Iraq is one big mass grave.

When America crossed this recent bloodshed line, burying its 2,000th sacrifice, the president stated that for the sake of the dead men and women's honor and memory, America has to continue the war until victory is won. This simple logic is familiar to us: Having already invested so many human lives in an adventure, we mustn't lose the investment.

There's only one problem with Bush and his logic: Most of the American public already wants to escape the trap that it did not want to enter from the start. The president wasn't alone when he made his impressive entrance. At the time, two and a half years ago, he was carried aloft on the shoulders of squads of cheerleaders and well-wishers. And the Israeli squad - politicians and generals and commentators - was particularly enthusiastic. That's how it is here: If there is a war on the horizon, the cheerleaders will immediately suit up. And at its start, as we all know, every war is nice and small.

When a president receives an approval rating of less than 40 percent in all of the polls, he is branded a "lame duck," and his lameness will only be aggravated by additional American problems: He who is hobbling along in Iraq will have a difficult time hopping and skipping without a care in Louisiana or in the Supreme Court in Washington, or even in the corridors of the White House, from the Oval Office to the office of the VP. A lame duck in the Middle Eastern shooting range is a dead duck, who is most certainly incapable of deterring the crazy chickens that strut through the local barnyard.

Since the war in Iraq broke out, the United States has been consistently losing its deterrence ability as the "leader of the world." Terror has only worsened, terrorists are turning up at home and abroad, and calling "Vietnam, Vietnam." This call is now reverberating from coast to coast. That is what happens when a cowboy president embarks on dubious, fabricated grounds, on a search for a "smoking gun," loses his way and ends up in the wrong place, a place where America is losing not only its strength, but also its image of God.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice assessed earlier this month that even 10 years from now America might still be losing blood under the hot Iraqi sun. Now everyone knows that there is actually no rush, that in any case America doesn't have the strength to put out the fire. Its entire army of firemen, 150,000 troops, is pinned down and exhausted. Rice's remarks could be heard in Iran, too, and the city of Tehran was rejoicing. And so, more than Iran fears the world, the world fears Iran.

Instead of organizing the international community and working together to neutralize the Khomeinist bomb, which is poisoning the planet with active fundamentalist radiation, America's soldiers continue to be blown apart by roadside bombs between the Tigris and the Euphrates.

Rice's forecast was heard in Jerusalem, as well, and bad old Ariel Sharon now knows he can slip back undisturbed to the Hundred Years' War. With the disengagement behind him, he has no need to continue developing his regional worldview beyond that of a lieutenant colonel plotting reprisal raids. After all, Bush himself has already declared that the Palestinian state may or may not happen, because when there's a rush, there's no real rush, because once again, "there's no one to talk with."

The "Bush vision" is, then, the Weissglas vision: After withdrawal from Gaza, the Palestinian state will be shoved into a jar of formaldehyde, where it will wait for the Palestinians to evolve into Finns. And if the Palestinians should actually become Finns, then we, their neighbors, will be Swedes and Norwegians. And then peace will reign over us and them. But only when all of us turn into blonds.