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Experts: Israel's Terrorism Response Will Impact United States

But the degree to which it will affect the peace process is uncertain and a point of debate among many.

Sarah Shields, an associate history professor at UNC and an expert on the Middle East, said she believes Israel's entrance into the war on terror could cause many problems for the United States.

Shields said Israel's military action might cause especially great damage to the international perception of America's campaign. She said almost three times as many Palestinians as Israelis have been killed in various confrontations between the two sides since September 2000.

"The United States has a problem because the world has seen this disparity," Shields said.

She added that in order to remain legitimate in the eyes of foreign nations, the United States must set the parameters of its fight and be careful not to alienate its other allies.

"The United States needs to define terrorism," Shields said. "If the U.S. tolerates Israel breaking international law then they're tolerating a double standard."

Shields said fighting in the Middle East will continue as long as Israel is occupying Palestinian territory. "The violence is caused by occupation, and it won't stop until the occupation is over."

The United States has yet to consider forcing Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories.

Shields said Middle Eastern tensions are further complicated because the Israelis and Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group, are too different to reach a compromise. "The extremes are making it impossible to negotiate a settlement."

But Robert Jervis, professor of political science and international affairs at Columbia University, said U.S. involvement in negotiations has slowed the peace process. He said the two sides are overly dependent on the United States, which will hinder their efforts to make a deal.

"You can't impose a solution from the outside," Jervis said. "With heavy intervention we hurt ourselves and set the movement back because they rely on us to do the heavy lifting."

He said any assistance the United States gives to Israel could also hurt America in its campaign to end terrorism.

"The rest of the world is much more critical of (Ariel) Sharon (than we are)," he said. "This could drive a wedge between us and our allies."

Ariel Levite, a visiting fellow at the Center for International Security and Corporation at Stanford University, voiced similar concerns about U.S. intervention. But he added that he thinks the United States could gain credibility by exhibiting a greater resolve against terrorism than it was originally thought to have -- particularly outside of Afghanistan.

"It demonstrates that the United States' desire to deal with terrorism is a lot stronger," Levite said. "It gives legitimacy that we don't discriminate terrorism from terrorism."

Levite said early Israeli responses to the suicide bombings in Jerusalem during the weekend have been measured enough to keep international support. But he said they have been loud enough that they might speed up the peace process in the long run.

"(The attacks) communicate to Arafat that it's now or never when bombs are exploding in our cities, and there is widespread violence," said Levite. "We've reached a point where there is one last opportunity for peace."

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