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WEDNESDAY, JUNE 1, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Leadership makes peace in Middle East possible

Not in the last 50 years has peace between Palestine and Israel seemed so close.

Three leaders have bucked political pressure to lead the region away from the hate and violence that has for so long left the Holy Land awash in unholiness.

The most recent leader to push toward peace is President Bush. With campaigns well funded by the Israel lobby, critics often chastise him as a crusader for Zion and hater of Mohammed.

Those criticisms should fade. Mr. Bush welcomed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to the White House. Then, in a gesture laden with meaning, Mr. Bush announced $50 million in housing aid to the Palestinian Authority for Palestinians in Gaza.

A cornerstone of Israel's strategy in dealing with Palestinians has been bulldozing their homes. That a U.S. gift will help reconstruct some of those homes sends an unmistakable message to Palestinians, an offer of friendship.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon also is showing statesmanship in leading his country toward peace. He has been the target of criticism from Israeli hawks since he decided to move settlers out of the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. He weathered those criticisms, however, and stands fast in keeping his promise of withdrawal.

And then, of course, there is Mr. Abbas. He has, with amazing speed, turned the Palestinian Authority away from the suicidal violence that was endemic under the rule of Yasser Arafat. Mr. Abbas has placed himself at great political and personal risk in the process, angering the Hamas thugs who had free reign under Mr. Arafat.

The blessing of three strong leaders aiming for the same goal is one we should acknowledge. It is also a blessing we cannot afford to ignore. If ever there was a chance of peace, it is now.

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