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July 05, 1996 - Image 38

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

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

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ineteen years ago this
month was the last time a
newly-elected Israeli Likud
prime minister visited
Washington during the presi-
dential tenure of a former south-
ern democratic governor.
By comparison, when Presi-
dent Clinton greets Binyamin
"Bibi" Netanyahu at the White
House, Israel's political clout vis-
a-vis its neighbors and the Unit-
ed States are far superior to those
which confronted Menachem
Begin. As compared to the Begin
visit with President Carter, Wash-
ington's understanding of Ne-
tanyahu will be more realistic,
even more understanding.
Ironically, however, Mr. Ne-
tanyahu's room for political ma-
neuvering both within the Israeli
political system and regionally are
much narrower than were Mr.
Begin's. Constraints of process
and office will limit the new Is-
raeli prime minister's options.
Mr. Netanyahu's political char-
acter will be severely tested. If he
succeeds more than he does not,
he could become a central fixture
in Israeli politics for the better
part of the next three decades.
The cold-war in the Middle
East is over; curbing internation-
al terrorism unites Arabs, Israelis,
and Americans alike. Washing-
ton does more than just choreo-
graph Arab-Israeli diplomacy or
provide Israel with military as-
sistance or foreign aid. It actively
defends the territorial integrity
and sovereignty of Arab states as
well.
Strategic211y, Egypt, Israel, Jor-
dan, several north African Arab
countries, and Arab Gulf states
are gladly part of an informal re-
gional security framework bol-
stered by Washington.
Regionally, the once monolith-
ic Arab-Israeli conflict is now a se-
ries of varied Arab-Israeli
relationships. At the 1976 Riyadh
Arab summit meeting, Arab lead-
ers politely vilified Egypt for go-
ing too quickly in signing separate
military disengagement agree-
ments with Israel. Last month in
Cairo, Arab leaders demanded
that Israel's new government up-
hold existing diplomatic agree-
ments with Arab states and the
PLO.
Just two weeks ago in Amman,
Jordanian and PLO leaders ex-
pressed an exaggerated concern

is director of
the Middle East Research
Program at Emory University.

Dr. Kenneth W. Stein

to me that the new Israeli gov-
ernment would not sustain its
treaty obligations. One former
Jordanian prime minister said,
"Netanyahu's election is the end
of the peace process as we know
it. There will be no more peace in
peace process." They did not eas-
ily accept my reminder that the
sky was not falling. Can one imag-
ine having had heard such re-
marks by Arab leaders two
decades ago?
Now, Washington treats
Jerusalem with a special caress;
Israel is not just another Mideast
country in need of resolving neigh-
borly disputes. Warmth and col-
laboration, not tension and
frostiness, characterize the U.S.-
Israel relationship.
State Department and White
House hands that stir Middle
Eastern diplomatic pots are not
blamed for conjuring up unkosher
negotiating recipes. Could Presi-
dent Clinton have had a closer re-
lationship with the Rabin-Peres
tandem?
With so.many changed reali-
ties in Israel's favor, what will

The U.S. knows
Netanyahu could be
a kingpin.

motivate, but also limit policies of
the new Israeli prime minister?
For Mr. Netanyahu, the key is to
implement choices which find
space between sustaining the crit-
ical relationship with Washing-
ton while balancing political
requirements to coalition col-
leagues and to existing commit-
ments made to Arab partners.
When Mr. Begin's May 1977
election surprised the Carter ad-
ministration, no direct Arab-Is-
raeli negotiations either existed
or were in progress. No Arab-Is-
raeli treaties nor agreements had
been ratified. No Palestinian part-
ner was chosen and accepted by
Israel. The Israeli economy was
creeping, massive Soviet Jewish
immigration seemed impossible;
and Mr. Carter found greater ease
with Egypt's Anwar Sadat than
the newly-elected Likud leader.
Mr. Begin was apprehensive
about Mr. Carter, but he went
looking for Mr. Sadat to make a
deal. And he did.
Mr. Netanyahu must work un-
der pressures and tensions which
eluded Mr. Begin. The latter ex-
changed Sinai for a peace treaty

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