The violence between Israelis and Palestinians is horrific and the United States must do everything in its power to bring about peace.

At this stage of the conflict, it does no good to blame one side or the other for starting it, or to debate who has a moral right to what piece of dirt. All such questions are irrelevant when entire families die as a suicide bomber destroys the cafŽ they’re dining in or as rockets obliterate the home they live in. There is only one immediate question: What will it take to stop the killing?

It is possible that there is no answer – besides a shortage of the living – but the United States must try to find one. We are the only superpower in the world and it is our moral imperative. Beyond the fact that it is the right thing to do, the U.S. must also look to its interests in this. The terrorists that pose so great a threat to our nation sprung from the Middle East and claim the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of their cause. If we can bring peace, organizations like al-Qaeda might have a harder time finding recruits. Moreover, in our fight against terrorism we will need the cooperation of Arab states – especially if we decide to extend that conflict to Iraq.

On Thursday, President Bush took an important step in the right direction. He declared that “enough is enough,” and dispatched Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East to bring Israel and Palestine back to the peace table. Sending someone of Powell’s stature is an important signal to the combatants, but not as important as what Bush said. Bush told Ariel Sharon that he must withdraw Israel’s military forces from the West Bank and told Yasser Arafat that he must actively oppose terrorism.

Both sides are to blame for the violence that now rages daily in the Holy Land. Palestinian terrorism in the streets of Jerusalem forced Israel to respond to violence with violence. However, Israel’s tough stance now and in the past – the very stance it has taken to protect itself from terrorism – is creating terrorists every day. It is impossible to persuade a Palestinian who’s home has just been rocketed by Israeli helicopters that Israel is not his mortal enemy. Neither side is praiseworthy; they both must be condemned and Bush is right to do so.

Now Bush must back up his tough words with real threats, in order to force Israel and Palestine to the peace table. Palestine cannot exist in territory currently held by Israel, a United States’ ally, without our support and Israel needs American arms to defend itself from its neighbors. Both sides must know that we are willing to withhold these things from any state that refuses to help create peace. We must also act in concert with the United Nations and especially the Arab League. For any peace to be lasting, not only must there be a Palestinian state, but Arab nations must formally recognize Israel as a state and declare their peaceful intentions towards it. Only then can Israel feel as if it has made peace instead of allowing an enemy encampment into its territory.

President Bush must continue his initiative and, for the sake of everyone, he must succeed.