Reagan deal with Israel sets him up well with Syria - and voters
President Reagan rolled out an extra-soft red carpet in Washington last Monday and Tuesday for Israel's new prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, and promised him some, but not all, of the things on Mr. Shamir's shopping list.Skip to next paragraph
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When the shower of phrases about ways to ''enhance Israeli-American cooperation'' and about the ''mutual interests'' of the two countries had ended, and Lebanon's embattled President Amin Gemayel had replaced Mr. Shamir on the White House guest list, it seemed reasonably clear that Mr. Reagan had extracted two advantages from the Shamir visit.
He had built (or thinks he has built) extra bargaining power for himself with Syria for the day when Mr. Reagan will have to do a deal with that country if the United States Marines are to come safely out of Lebanon in time for next year's presidential elections.
And he had outflanked the Democrats in the ''be kind to Israel'' department of American politics. It is difficult to see how any Democratic presidential candidates could now appear to be more friendly to Israel than Mr. Reagan was, in front of the television cameras, at the White House this past week.
Reagan is still far from having all of his foreign policy problems in shape for a presidential election year, but he is working hard at it and making progress in three departments.
His first and probably most urgent aim is to so arrange things in the Middle East so that the Marines can be brought home in honor and without more heavy casualties. That can only be done through some kind of deal with Syria. A closer military association with Israel is seen in the administration as a preliminary to this.
After the Shamir visit and the prospect of a ''joint military-political group'' of US and Israeli officials, the Syrians may be more careful to avoid a military encounter with Israel. Also, they and their Soviet suppliers and advisers may conclude that there have been enough danger and trouble in the Middle East for the time being. A lull in that troubled area through 1984 would be welcome to many, including Reagan.
The ''new friendship'' with Israel was trumpeted the day after the White House had officially declared that Reagan ''looks forward to visiting the People's Republic of China'' in the spring.
The White House spokesman accompanied the statement with the assertion that ''we recognize the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China.''
So far as the White House is concerned, China's Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang will visit the US in January; and in April the President will be seen on US television climbing the Great Wall, visiting the Ming tombs, and dining in Peking's Forbidden City while Walter Mondale is tramping through Kansas cornfields.
It is not as fully arranged as the White House likes to think it is. While Reagan's spokesman was asserting the prospects for the new and closer friendship with mainland China, China was fussing about
things Congress is doing for Taiwan.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wu Xueqien told the Monitor's Peking correspondent, Takashi Oka, that Congress had ''destroyed'' the atmosphere necessary for the exchange of visits. The Chinese presumably want a higher price for their contribution to the Reagan reelection.