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April 15, 1988 - Image 94

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-04-15

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Shultz Shuttle: Illusion
Is Mideast Reality

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erusalem — Early last
year, George Shultz
made it clear that the
Middle East was on neither
his agenda nor his itinerary.
After the administration
had suffered disasters in
Lebanon (where it sought to
make make peace) and in
Iran (where it sought to trade
arms for hostages), there
seemed no point in playing
with a fire that produced
nothing but burned fingers.
The only thing that would
drag him back to the Middle
East, he said, was to celebrate
an unlikely breakthrough in
the 40-year-old cycle of Arab-
Israeli hostility — a peace pro-
cess in which he could play a
high-profile, flag-waving role.
What made him change his
mind? What persuaded him
to plunge into the fray and
undertake two exhausting —
and apparently fruitless —
diplomatic shuttles within a
Why did George Shultz, a
heavyweight in the autumn
of his career, without personal
aspirations or political ambi-
tions, choose to place his
substantial prestige on the
line by undertaking so seem-
ingly impossible and
thankless a mission?
The most likely explanation
to the questions that baffled
Middle East political scien-
tists has more to do with war
than peace. For it is a truism
in the Middle East that
unless the region is moving
toward peace, it is moving
toward war.
Shultz, say the analysts,
may have become convinced
that unless there were clear
signs of serious diplomatic ac-
tivity at a senior level, the
drift to war — fuelled by the
continuing Palestinian upris-
ing — would have been in-
exorable; that the forces of ex-
tremism would gather mo-
mentum and quickly turn in-
to an uncontrollable firestorm
that could engulf the entire
Not peace, but the contin-
ued absence of war, is there-
fore likely to have been at the
heart of the Shultz shuttles.
The appearance of movement,
if not movement itself, may
have been intended to counter
those voices from Syria and
the radical elements in the
PLO — which oppose a politi-
cal settlement and demand a
military solution to the Arab-
Israeli conflict.
Never mind that the un-


George Shultz: Keeping up

compromising official, public
positions of the contending
parties were also their unof-
ficial, private positions. Never
mind that it was based on an
illusion. After all, so much
Middle Eastern reality is
rooted in illusion.
What mattered was that
the United States secretary of
state was demonstrating his
faith in the political process
through a massive invest-
ment of time and energy; that
he was making determined,
declarative acts to reinforce
that impression, cheerfully
insisting that the diplomatic
option was still alive.
.George Shultz might not be
a true believer, but he put on
a great performance. The puf-
finess around the eyes
became more pronounced as
fatigue set in, but the smile
never faltered as he painstak-
ingly delivered his message of
hope in one media interview
after another.

He must have known, as all
Israelis knew, that Prime
Minister Yitzhak Shamir was
playing an elaborate game by
concentrating minds on the
issue of an international
peace conference in order to
avoid the issue of relin-
quishing territory.
He must have known, as
Jordanians knew, that Prime
Minister Zaid Rifai was
demanding a separate seat at
the negotiating table for the
PLO even though such a prop-
osition was anathema to the
He must have known that
Syrian President Hafez Assad
had no intention of coming to
terms with the Jewish state
(though he might postpone
the day of reckoning if the
price was right for his strap-
ped republic).
He must have known, too,

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