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December 07, 1990 - Image 35

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-12-07

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Foreign Correspondent


hatever public
declarations and
pious hopes follow
next week's meeting in
Washington between George
Bush and Yitzhak Shamir,
they will be preceded by
some of the toughest talking
yet between an American
President and an Israeli
Prime Minister.
According to sources both
in Israel and in the Arab
world, Yassir Arafat, leader
of the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO), will
quickly bounce back after
the Gulf crisis is resolved,
and Mr. Bush will leave Mr.
Shamir in no doubt that he
will be banging their heads
In the early weeks of the
crisis, Israeli leaders con-
fidently predicted that the
brutal action of Iraq's Presi-
dent Saddam Hussein in
Kuwait would demonstrate
to the world the difficulties
they faced in the Middle
East political jungle.
They took a quietly
perverse satisfaction in the
outpouring of pro-Saddam
sentiment among the Pales-
tinians and in the perception
that Mr. Arafat had so clear-
ly aligned himself with the
Butcher of Baghdad.
How, they asked, could
they be expected to trust the
word of a man who, while
renouncing terrorism and
acknowledging Israel's right
to exist simultaneously ap-
plauds the rape and pillage
of Kuwait? Now the world,
including Washington,
would understand their
To their dismay, however,
they discovered that the pro-
tracted Gulf crisis has serv-
ed only to harden the resolve
of the international com-
munity to compel Israel to
make the concessions
necessary to achieve a set-
tlement of the Palestinian
The problems of Kuwait
and the Palestinians might
not have been linked — not
yet, at least — in any formal
or informal understanding
with Saddam Hussein, but
in the collective mind of the
international community,

Israel Fiddling
As Mideast Burns

Surrounded by enemies and facing the
possibility of being sold down the river by
the U.S., the Jewish state seems mired in
petty domestic politics.

the two issues are now inex-
tricably bound together, the
one following the other as
day follows night.
The point was underscored
last week when a senior U.S.
diplomat spoke contemp-
tuously of Israel — "that
theocratic little state" —
and stressed the leverage
that Egypt would be capable
of asserting in Washington
following the resolution of
the Gulf crisis.
Such leverage will be a
consequence of Egypt's un-
qualified support for Saudi
Arabia and, not least, for the

legitimacy it has tacitly con-
ferred on America's military
presence in the Gulf.
While relations between
Egypt and the PLO "has its
ups and downs," that dia-
logue is continuing. And
despite the rapid growth of
Islamic fundamentalism
among Palestinians, which
is often in conflict with the
secular, nationalist message
of the PLO, Egypt's Minister
of State for Foreign Affairs
Butros Ghali is convinced
that the PLO would continue
to be perceived as the "sole
legitimate representative of

the Palestinian people."
"I don't know about the
future," he said, "but for the
moment neither the Palesti-
nians nor the Israelis have
been able to create a coun-
terbalance to the PLO.
Despite its weakness, the
PLO symbolizes Palestinian
aspirations. It represents a
real force."
Professor Matti Steinberg,
a specialist in Palestinian
affairs at the Hebrew Uni-
versity of Jerusalem, shared
the view that the PLO will
not suffer any lasting op-
probrium because of its sup-

port for Iraq.
"The international
legitimacy of the PLO has
perhaps been damaged, but
it has not been destroyed by
the Gulf crisis," he said.
"Arafat still represents the
Arab consensus, and when
the UN addresses itself to
the Palestinian question it
will, for practical reasons,
turn to Arafat."
He believes that in the
aftermath of the Gulf crisis,
the PLO will be perceived in
Washington to have fulfilled
all the necessary precondi-
tions for participation in
negotiations, while Israel
will be perceived as con-
sistently having said no.
It will be recalled that the
PLO renounced terrorism,
implicitly accepted Israel's
right to exist within secure
boundaries and, moreover,
accepted a formula for
negotiations devised by Sec-
retary of State James Baker.
It will also be recalled, he
said, that Israel effectively
rejected the Baker Plan, a
rejection that led to the col-
lapse of the national unity
government in March of this
He believes that the Pales-
tinians will be regarded in a
relatively sympathetic light
— "as being frustrated, des-
perate. In the eyes of the
United States, they will be
seen to have done their ut-
most to enter a political pro-
cess, and that the failure of
the political process led
them to side with Saddam
The most hard-line
government in Israel's his-
tory is now contemplating a
world that is almost com-
pletely hostile.
It is facing the prospect of
a missile war with an Iraqi
regime which, confronted
with a deadline, may feel
tempted to convert the Gulf
crisis into an Arab-Israeli
Israel itself will be
weighing the possibility of
initiating unilateral
military action against Iraq
to pre-empt such a threat,
regardless of Washington's
interests or the catastrophic
effect this would have on the
military alliance in the Gulf.
It is also facing growing
dangers within its borders,
where the level of violence





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