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July 05, 1996 - Image 37

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-07-05

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

No Time For Pandering

Clinton and

Dole must

understand

there's

something

more important

than votes at

stake in Middle

East policy.

/—

JAMES B. BESSER

WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

Warren Christopher
met with Binyamin
Netanyahu on June 25
as a prelude to the
Washington visit.

N

residential elections
rarely produce far-
sighted foreign policy.
In 1996, that fact could
play out in particular-
ly destructive ways in
the Middle East,
where firm, coura-
geous American poli-
cymaking is needed to
preserve an endangered peace
process.
The kind of pandering, short-
term foreign policy that litters
the campaign trail is easy: Tell
every constituency what he
wants to hear, make a lot of
promises without worrying too
much about conflicting pledges,
and use the full weight of Amer-
ican diplomacy to win points with
the folks back home, no matter
what the long-term impact on
American international interests.
And then there's real foreign
policy, which is based on hard-
headed analyses of the long-term
aims of the United States in a
world where options are rarely
straightforward and never cost-
free, although foreign policy, at
least in a democracy, can never be
separated entirely from politics.
It is important to keep that ba-
sic distinction in mind as the ad-
ministration begins to feel its way
around a Middle East that was
turned inside out by the recent
victory of Israeli Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu, and the
repudiation of the land-for-peace
policies of his predecessor, Shi-
mon Peres.
President Clinton's emphasis

on finding a formula for a com-
prehensive, region-wide peace,
and his willingness to help Israel
deal with the risks that any peace
process entails, reflect a serious
reading of American interests in
the region.
In an age when rogue states
driven by Islamic extremism and
outright craziness may pose the
biggest threat to American secu-
rity, finding a solution to the gen-
erations-old Arab-Israeli conflict
is an essential first step in pro-
tecting this nation's interests.
"It's not sheer idealism that
has pushed the United States in
this direction," said a source close
to the peace process. "It's a very
down-to-earth understanding
that this conflict cannot be al-
lowed to continue in an environ-
ment where the next war or the
next wave of terrorism could well
bring nonconventional weapons
into the picture."
But the administration's lack
of any contingency plans for a
Peres defeat reflected the short-
term desire to keep relations
smooth before the presidential
election. Even more significant
is Mr. Clinton's apparent desire
not to ruffle Mr. Netanyahu's
feathers by making it crystal
clear that American interests rest
squarely with a continuation of
the current peace process, albeit
with a greater emphasis on Is-
raeli security.
Former Sen. Bob Dole's Mid-
dle East policy is more firmly
rooted in the imperatives of raw
politics.

Mr. Netanyahu's foreign pol-
icy is unformed; he is still in the
process of sorting out the ideol-
ogy of his new government and
both the internal and external
pressures that will affect its di-
rection.
And one of the critical factors
will be American policy in the
early days of the new regime.
Mr. Dole's recent blank-check
endorsement of Mr. Netanyahu
reflects a politically driven
Mideast policy that could help tilt
the balance in Israel toward
those in the government who
want an end to the peace process,
not a security-minded slowdown.
Likewise, any decision by the
Clinton administration to defer
weighing in with its strong con-
cern about the survival of the ne-
gotiations until the president is
safely re-elected can only rein-
force those in the new govern-
ment who want to reverse the
Oslo Accords and end the nego-
Mr. Dole, a longtime critic of tiations with Syria.
Israeli policy on a host of issues,
suddenly is trying to position Nobody likes to think about
himself as a pro-Israel hawk. For American pressure; historically,
years, he opposed moving the strong-arming from Washington
American Embassy to Jerusalem has almost always produced a
—until he began running for the counterproductive backlash in Is-
White House, when he became rael.
But finely calibrated, firm
the leading proponent of the
American
input, aimed at pre-
move.
Last week, at a reception serving the peace process while
marking the birthday of New understanding Mr. Netanyahu's
York Gov. George Pataki, he of- need to proceed with a greater
fered a virtual endorsement of emphasis on security, may be the
Mr. Netanyahu's hard-line posi- only way to avert a meltdown in
tions without even knowing what talks that are clearly vital to this
country's interests.
those positions would be.
At the same time, Washington
Mr. Dole, courting Orthodox
and right-wing Jewish votes, has must make it clearer to Syrian
yet to offer a vision of the region President Hafez al-Assad and
and the U.S. role in the quest for PLO leader Yassir Arafat that
peace and security that goes the time for equivocation has
passed; if Israel needs to be
much beyond election day.
nudged to keep the peace process
going, Syria and the Palestinians
Netanyahu Sorting
need to be pushed with bulldoz-
Out Policy
ers.
Input from Washington will
That brings us to the new gov-
ernment in Israel, which was not be easy, given the big gaps
elected because Israeli voters between current American poli-
were frightened by the aggres- cy and the commitments Mr. Ne-
sive land-for-peace policies of the tanyahu has made to key
Peres government and its per- constituent groups. It also will be
ceived lack of focus on Israel's se- complicated by the American
Jewish right, which already is
curity needs:
Mr. Netanyahu is bound by his mobilized to resist any new
own ideology and his electoral American pressure.
But Mr. Dole and Mr. Clinton
mandate to put Israel's short-
term security ahead of the long- owe it to voters to go beyond pan-
term quest for a comprehensive dering and political posturing
and work out a consistent, force-
peace.
Those goals are appropriate; ful American role in the negotia-
what is uncertain is how he will tions in which we continue to q
have a tremendous stake. ü
implement them.

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