The media and their conventional sources have placed the Washington visits by President Sadat and next week by Prime Minister Begin in the usual false context. The Egyptian and Israeli leaders are joining President Carter in a renewed thrust to carry out their peace treaty. Yet the situation is being dramatized like a contests, with one man's gain another man's loss, as if a whole new way of thinking about conflict had not been developed by scholars and statesmen in recent years. In essence, this line of reasoning sees the parties not as pitted against each other but as linked by mutual interest against the problems that divide them. Like fresh departures in natural science, it is one of those decisive changes in outlook that indicate humanity's development out of entrenched and counterproductive habits of thought. IT ought to be supported rather than undercut by the media and all those whose words and deeds affect the climate for peace.
Those endless talk about who will make what concessionsm simply contributes to the old I-win-you-lose attitudes. So does the next level of discussion of who should pressure whom to make concessions. Can President Sadat give up any more? Has the Israeli Cabinert instructed Prime Minister Begin not to give up a thing? At some point such speculation should be diminished in favor of dealing with how both sides benefit by steps taken together.
Today's innovative reasoning on the resolution of conflicts has been phrased in various simple ways: You are not my adversary; our conflict is our common adversary. It sh ould not be A vs. B because of their differences -- but A andm B vs. their differences. The idea is not how to beat down your adversary -- but how to change the situation so your adversary becomes your brother.
Such thinking has taken place in an atmosphere that includes one scholar's interpretation of the Golden Rule to mean to do unto others so that they are betterm off for dealing with you. And another scholar's interpretation of justice to mean a fairness that does nothing for the better off which makes things worse for those already less fortunate.
These recent views point to such long-established concepts as seeking one's own in another's good or recognizing that what blesses one blesses all. Fundamentally, the new/old spirit of conflict resolution that must be sought is reflected in the Biblical words of Paul when he said, as translated in the New English Bible, "Love keeps no score of wrongs; does not gloat over other men's sins, but delights in the truth."
Such a spirit would seem to be in keeping with the religious convictions of the leaders meeting on such difficult questions as the arrangements for Palestinian autonomy on the West Bank. But in addition to the spirit there needs to be a method of negotiation that does not thwart it. Such a method appeared to have been found at Camp David, leading to the extraordinary treaty between the seemingly irreconcilable Mideast enemies. It reportedly was not to ask concessions that might be assumed to lead to more concessions; rather, it was to make repeated drafts of an agreement to which the sides could raise objections, gradually reducing the objections and expanding the area of mutual interest. This method could be used again, perhaps extending to the Palestinians and others the option of raising criticisms.
In view of the long-drawn difficulties so far, and despite the cries of cynics, what is required is a consistent turn away from I-against-you to I-and-you against the problem that splits us.