Surrounded by Courage

FTER tears, the gears grind on.

Even as a grim Shimon Peres bid farewell to his assassinated co-manager of the Mideast peace machinery and to his assassination-surviving Arab neighbors, Israeli troops resumed their turnover of West Bank villages to Palestinian control.

Gaps there have been. Even retreats. But the sequence of events since Egyptian President Anwar Sadat flew to Jerusalem to address the Israeli Knesset has rolled inexorably onward. Camp David. The handshake at the White House. Arafat's homecoming. And now King Hussein's words of brotherly love for Yitzhak Rabin to remind us of the dramatic speed with which Jordan and Israel turned from decades of enmity to the pursuit of business deals and joint tourism.

It's significant that neither Hamas suicide bombing of Israeli buses nor Israeli settler murder of Palestinians at prayer has halted the momentum of the deal between Israel and its most intertwined neighbors, the Palestinians. As Yitzhak Rabin himself prophetically told his Cabinet last August, the Palestinian peace process has struck a ''mighty blow to the delusion of a 'Greater Israel.' '' One of the deluded struck back at Rabin. But Rabin's vision of Israel's future and the benefits of peace to all sides remains on track.

Prime Minister Peres must have taken heart from the courage that surrounded him Monday. There stood Hosni Mubarak, successor to the assassinated Sadat and himself a survivor of a recent extremist attack. And there stood courageous King Hussein, object of many plots and grandson of a king assassinated for leaning toward peace with Israel. And, sympathetically staying away, Yasser Arafat, perennial survivor of plots, ready to press on.

Peres will draft a defense hawk to serve as heat shield against charges of dove-ism as he pursues the next phase of Rabin's legacy - peace with Syria and Lebanon. Peres has said that Israel's future lies in technology, not grabbing more occupied land. He is surely right, for two reasons. First, Israel's best defense line lies in completing a buffer of businesslike relations with its neighbors. Second, all the nations of this cockpit of strife need to become versions of Singapore. The lands now engaged in keeping the peace gears moving must build economies that serve the modern world. They may not have oil. But they have a rarer resource: leaders of genuine courage.

Israel and its neighbors may lack oil. But they have a rarer resource: leaders of courage.

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