JERUSALEM -- In retrospect, more diligent efforts should have been made to prevent the war with Iraq. President Bush has ignited a schism between the West and the Moslem world. The events of the past days are just the tip of the iceberg. All the options calculated by experts in various think tanks could not predict or enumerate the results of this engagement. We are in the initial stages of a long drawn-out war that is expanding: today Israel, tomorrow maybe either Jordan or Syria, eventually the whole Arab world.
The millions of victims who are going to fall could have been spared if Kuwait had been left alone. But as the crisis developed up to an international level, Bush preferred to rely on technological superiority rather than a diplomatic breakthrough. The "new order" being advocated by the Bush administration does not include the implementation of Security Council Resolution 242 on the Arab-Israeli dispute. Instead the Americans chose war and military might over a political path based on all relevant U.N. resolutions.
Certainly the blame is not limited to Saddam Hussein or George Bush. Kuwaiti rulers could have avoided the takeover of their country; overproduction of oil and the avarice of the rich are indirect causes of what is happening here in the region. The arms producers are to blame: in the Cold War, weapons and technologies became available in abundance for those with and without the means to afford them. The Middle East, being more unstable, stockpiled much more than it needs.
George Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir could have avoided the war if either of them were serious and honest about the need to deal with the Palestinian people and their legitimate national rights. Bush refused to link directly or sequentially the Palestinian question with a solution for the Gulf crisis. Shamir failed to help the Bush administration isolate the Gulf crisis from the Arab-Israeli conflict by providing political options. No credible peace initiative was presented to provide a negotiated outcome of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It led Palestinians to conclude that neither Israeli nor American leaders would commit themselves to implementation of U.N. resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In the face of creeping annexation of what remained of their homeland, the Palestinian people should not be blamed for hanging on to the straw that Iraq provided by its Aug. 12 initiative calling for linkage of all the ills of the Middle East. If there were the minimum of good intentions, people of good will could have tested the intentions of Iraq by agreeing to open negotiations.
For the past four years, the Palestinian intifada raged on with the intention of alerting Israeli society and the international community to the explosive status of the Palestinian people living under military occupation. The outbreak of war is another danger signal. This is the first time that the Israeli rear -- the greater Tel Aviv area -- has been hit. To make it the last time, the Israeli people have to persuade their government that enmity with the Arab countries, including Iraq, will spread if the Palestinian people cannot enjoy their legitimate national rights.
Israel, without any intimidation, should immediately work for a process to end the Israeli occupation. The land that both people call their homeland should be big enough for both people to live in peace and dignity in a two-state solution. The initiative today is in the hands of the Israeli government; it should respond to the peace overtures of the Palestine National Council of November 1988.
An immediate effort including all of us -- Americans, Europeans, Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, secular and religious, left and right, friend and foe -- must be made to stop the war, to stop disaster and simultaneously to make a sharp about turn and take the steps that Europe has now taken to heal its divisions remaining from World War II.
The writer is editor of the newspaper Al-Fajr in East Jerusalem.