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December 06, 1985 - Image 42

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-12-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

42

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, December 6, 1985

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BACKGROUND

The Power Balance
Is Shifting For Peace

BY IRVING GREENBERG
Special to The Jewish News

Israel is on the brink of an-
other major breakthrough for
peace in the Middle East — the
removal of Jordan from the
Arab war front against Israel.
(Even if the negotiations do not
succeed this time, Jordan — and
the United States — have taken
stands that seemed out of reach
five years ago.) This surprising
development comes at a time
when hopes for peace were low
in the Israeli community, and
they are an object lesson in the
relationship of power and peace.
For the past decade in the
post-Vietnam, post-Yom Kippur
War disillusion,
American
Jewish opinion has been
strongly skewed toward peace
initiatives, the limits-of-force
thinking with a strong tendency
toward idealism in foreign pol-
icy. (Even the Pentaon seemed
to rule out a military role except
in circumstances of overwhelm-
ing national consensus — which,
given the national atmosphere,
meant almost never.)
The integrity of this view lay
in the conviction that good will
and the desire for peace existed
on both sides of most issues.
Remove the demonizing tenden-
cies (Russia-the Evil Empire;
Arafat-Hitler) and give the fun-
damental need for peace a
chance to operate on both sides.
The weakness of this view
was its underestimate of a key
factor. Good will is truly a force
in human society and foreign af-
fairs. But it operates primarily
in the framework of a balance of
power — preferably with re-
wards for good (e.g. peaceful)
behavior and punishment for
bad (e.g. anti-peace) behavior.
The worldwide perception
grew that power was shifting
away from the U.S. and its al-
lies (if for no other reason than
their reluctance to use the
power they had) which, in prac-
tice, translated into a one-sided
pressure for concessions from
the West.
During this period, there was
little risk or cost for Russia
when it probed for expansion.
(Consider that the invasion of
Afghanistan cost it a short-term
farm embargo and a U.S. Olym-
pic boycott!) Similarly, except
for Israel's often questioned if
not condemned retaliation, there
was little risk or cost to Syria
for belligerence, to hijackers for
hijacking, to Arafat for ter-
rorism. On the contrary, Sadat
was assassinated for making
peace; Assad or Iraq's Hussein
are bought off by extra Saudi
money for threatening or mak-
ing war.
The risk to Russian partners
was relatively low — the Rus-
sians would send in troops or
Cuban help to shaky allies. The
risk to American allies from the
anti-American side was com-
pounded by the danger that they
would fall afoul of disillusion-
ment by the American public
with their practices. The net re-
sult of the risk-reward ratio was
that it paid to stay on Russia's
or the radicals' good side. No
wonder that Italy cottoned up to

the PLO — in effect, encourag-
ing them to apply their ter-
rorism elsewhere. No wonder
that Mubarak chilled the peace
with Israel. He wanted to stay
alive.
Israel stood out — and often
alone -- for its calibrated use of
force and its attempts to punish
terrorist and other wrong be-
havior. The price was frequent
condemnation and serious ques-
tioning within (most dramati-
cally and legitimately expressed
in the Peace Now movement
which felt that the government
was guilty of passing up peace
opportunities and of demonizing
the Arabs).
Now there are reports that
the failure to find a counterpart
Arab group and the sharp in-
crease in terrorist violence

The fact that Arafat
may lose his
position is a major
impetus to peace.

\

within and without Israel's 1967
borders has generated great un-
easiness and even disillusion in
the Peace Now and other Israeli
peace movements. This was in-
tensified by the Sinai incident
in which an Egyptian soldier
(Egypt claims it was a police-
man) killed seven tourists in the
Sinai. A couple of the victims
were deprived of needed medical
help by Egyptian refusal to
allow Israeli doctors or treat-
ment.
This reaction errs by again
overemphasizing the role of good
will. Despite the deterioration in
the emotional mood of good will,
the objective pressures for peace
generated by a shifting balnce of
power are intensifying.
The American military buil-
dup, the stiffening of European
resistance by stationing
medium-range missiles in
Europe, and the Strategic De-
fense Initiative ("Star Wars")
have brought the Soviet Union
back to the bargaining table.
Since President Reagan has
taken the brunt of the criticism c'
for the buildup and its excesses,
he deserves the credit for the
positive
effects
as
well.
Moreover, Reagan seems to be
convinced that with the new
strength he can commit to —
and win — a real reduction of
nuclear arms on both sides.
In general, the proper process
of reward and punishment has
started up again. Increasingly,
the anti-Western governments
must calculate their cost-benefit
ratios in anti-U.S. (or anti-
Israel) policies. The costs of Af-
ghanistan to the Russians ex-
pand daily. The expansion of
Savimbi's forces in Angola —
yes, even the contras in
Nicaragua — just or unjust —
means that there is now a two-
way cost factor in foreigh policy.

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