A call for bold diplomacy in the Middle East
IN spite of the turmoil in the West Bank and Gaza, the Middle East peace process has reached a point where the perennial strife between Israel and the Palestinian people can be attenuated or possibly ended with bold, imaginative United States diplomacy. With the exception of Libya, all the Arab states, along with the Palestine Liberation Organization, have signaled their readiness to accept the permanence of Israel as a Jewish state with recognized borders in return for an indispensable quid pro quo - the recognition of the right of a displaced Palestinian nation to self-determination. In other words, most of the Arabs who have a say in the matter are willing to conclude peace with an Israel within its 1967 borders and willing to acknowledge Palestinian rights and national aspirations. This is the intent of United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338, universally accepted as foundations for a reasonable settlement.Skip to next paragraph
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The great majority of third-world countries have been vehement in their advocacy of equal rights for the Palestinian people. A clear indication of their sentiment lies in the fact that third-world countries that accept the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people outnumber those that maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.
This also explains why the UN has conferred observer status on the PLO, even though it does not control territory and is not a government-in-exile.
European NATO allies have dissociated themselves from US Middle East policy by accepting the legitimacy of the Palestinian national movement and affirming the illegality of continued Israeli occupation of, and Jewish settlement in, the West Bank and Gaza. This position has been asseverated in various declarations and fairly consistently, including support for the recently adopted UN resolution deploring excessive Israeli military force in occupied territories.
In contrast, the US has been embarrassed enough by awkward circumstances to abstain from voting. Washington has had to part company with NATO allies in the UN by vetoing resolutions critical of Israeli policies.
Neither China nor the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies have ever questioned Israel's existence as a Jewish state or its right to live in peace and security. But they have rejected Israel's territorial ambitions and its refusal to accept the national character of the Palestinian resistance movement. The Soviets are not above fishing in troubled waters for political advantage. But they can be brought into the process if a viable peace proposal is put forward.
The Jewish state is clearly at an impasse, incapable of making admittedly hard choices, and seemingly unable to take the measure of its future. Opinion polls taken in Israel suggest that the country is as divided over the critical issues of war and peace as is the curious ``national unity'' government in office since 1984.