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November 06, 1987 - Image 30

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-11-06

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

I

CUSTOM
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BY

INSIDE WASHINGTON

GLASTCH

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Political Climate In U.S.
Favors Israeli Peace Initiative

WOLF BLITZER

Special to The Jewish News

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srael would be wise to
take full advantage of
his approaching final
year of the Reagan Ad-
ministration to try to advance
the stalled peace process with
its Arab neighbors. Waiting
until after next year's U.S.
presidential elections could
prove rather costly for Israel.
Reagan and Shultz, by all
accounts, are genuinely fond
of Israel; that is not the case
as far as the Arabs are con-
cerned. That one-two com-
bination in Washington may
not exist in the next Admin-
istration.
Thus, what the national
unity government in Jeru-
salem should do in the com-
ing months is to try to set in
motion a negotiating format
that would be as favorable as
possible in protecting Israel's
long-term interests. Even if
less friendly faces should ap-
pear in the next U.S. Ad-
ministration — as is, of
course, very possible irrespec-
tive of a Democratic or
Republican victory — the
components of these negotia-
tions would by then already
be set in concrete.

This, in fact, was the advice
Shultz privately offered both
Prime Minister Yitzhak
Shamir and Foreign Minister
Shimon Peres during his re-
cent talks with them in
Jerusalem.
On the surface, Shultz ap-
peared to make some head-
way. Shamir and Peres, for ex-
ample, seemed to narrow
their differences on the
touchy matter of Soviet par-
ticipation in the peace pro-
cess. But there is still a long
way to go before any negotia-
tions — under any format —
get off the ground. Some in
Israel would no doubt
welcome such a delay as an
opportunity to further con-
solidate Israel's position on
the West Bank.
But from the vantage point
of the real politics of
Washington, that approach
seems incredibly short-
sighted. Instead of allowing
the status quo to continue,
Israel should aggressively
take the initiative in making
certain that genuine negotia-
tions begin sooner rather
than later.
The process can drive the
substance, and Israel now has
an excellent chance — with
American backing — of estab-

Yitzhak Shamir and Ronald Reagan: Not much pressure coming from
Washington.

lishing the ground rules for
the process.
Israeli officials should
understand that they now
need not fear too much
pressure coming from Wash-
ington as they enter into
negotiations with a joint
Jordanian-Palestinian team.
Israel, moreover, has an
unusually strong position in
Congress now. With the
Democrats in control of the
Senate as well as the House
of Representatives, the
Republican White House in-
stinctively knows that it can-
not lean too heavily on Israel.
This combination of polit-
ical circumstances can only
help to strengthen Israel's
standing.
But even if the badly-
divided government in Jeru-
salem should get its own act
together and press hard for
the start of serious peace
negotiations, there is by no
means any guarantee that
the top leadership in
Washington will take all the
necessary steps to help. The
Arab-Israeli conflict has not
exactly been at the forefront
of the Reagan Administra-
tion's interests in recent
years.
Strategically, militarily,
politically and economically,
Israel's situation has im-
proved in recent years. It is
much stronger today — vis-a-
vis its immediate Arab
neighbors — than it was only
a few years ago.
The last time Israel man-
aged to open serious peace
negotiations with the Arabs
was in 1973-74, shortly after
the Yom Kippur War. At that
time, Israel's strategic posi-
tion was weak, despite its

ability to reverse its early
losses in the war.
Israel had lost a huge per-
centage of its air force. It was
forced to enter into great debt
to pay for a new generation of
replacement weaponry. In-
creasingly, Israel was isolated
around the world. The PLO
seemed on the rise. The
Arabs, moreover, had the
political momentum and the
oil weapon.
Much of that has now
changed. There is a peace
treaty with Egypt, meaning
effectively that Israel need
worry only about a one-front
conventional war with Syria.
Oil, at least in the short term,
is no longer a weapon. During
the war in Lebanon, for exam-
ple, it was never even
mentioned.
Militarily, Israel has been
armed with the most reliable
and sophisticated American
weapons. It can handle the
worst-case scenario involving
both a conventional as well as
terrorist threat.
And politically, ties with
Washington are much closer
today than they were in the
mid-1970s when President
Gerald Ford and Secretary of
State Henry Kissinger im-
posed their six-month
"reassessment" of policy
toward Israel to force it into
accepting the Sinai II accord.
In the coming weeks and
months, the U.S. and Israel
will strengthen their military
and strategic ties in all sorts
of ways. There are formal
discussions scheduled for
Washington in mid-Novem-
ber.
There is also a realistic
chance that Israel will
manage to refinance part of

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