IF BOTH Palestinians and Israelis are losing from their violent impasse, there must be a winner. So far there is one -- Saddam Hussein, dictator of Iraq.
Amid heightened passions, Iraq is regaining its Arab and Islamic standing. Saddam Hussein poses as the Palestinians' champion and would-be destroyer of Israel. Never mind his long history of aggression against Arab neighbors, use of torture or suppression of religion.
Planes from many countries are flying to Baghdad to spurn no-fly rules. The missions of Egypt and Iraq to each other are being upgraded to embassies. Saudi Arabia reopened its land border. Jordan agreed to rehabilitate six grounded planes in Iraq's fleet. A pipeline is being repaired to move Iraqi oil to Syria's refineries for the first time since 1982.
French companies are pledging to renovate Iraq's damaged oil industry in anticipation of sanctions being lifted. Hundreds of Western firms attended the Baghdad International Fair last weekend.
All this ignores Saddam Hussein's refusal to allow the U.N. to inspect for weapons.
President Clinton is trying to repair the Middle East peace process. The visit of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat looked like propaganda grandstanding. The visit of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday promises little better.
Meanwhile, sanctions appear to hurt only Iraq's ordinary people. Saddam Hussein is begging to get at U.N. escrow accounts. No one doubts he would use the money to restart chemical and biological weapons. As long as the Palestinians and Israelis are at each others' throats, he wins.