What comes after Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai? Solemn commitments to a ''just, comprehensive, and lasting peace'' in the Middle East must be kept.
First, the United States is committed to encouraging the growing Egyptian-Israeli relationship. Israel's withdrawal is not the ''final step'' in implementing the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. It completes the foundation for the normal, peaceful relationship to which Egypt and Israel are committed. Building that relationship is the work of a generation.
An important achievement of the treaty is its definition of peace not just as the absence of war codified in a treaty. The peace the US sought from 1967 and achieved in 1979 is rooted in mutual acceptance, normal relations, and common interests among peoples which make war less likely. As long as the work of building that relationship goes on, neither Camp David nor the larger peace process is dead.
But a second commitment was made at Camp David and ratified in the peace treaty. The quality of the developing relationship between Egypt and Israel and American strength in the Middle East will both depend on its fulfillment.
The first words of the peace treaty describe that commitment: ''Convinced of the urgent necessity of the establishment of a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace in the Middle East in accordance with Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 . . . '' The US is a partner in that commitment to a wider peace.
Moving to a wider peace now requires progress on three tracks:
1. The faltering talks on autonomy that can launch the five-year transitional process to peace which was agreed to at Camp David. The US must choose between routine negotiation - which will not produce agreement - or pressing for the ''full autonomy'' to which the US committed itself at Camp David. ''Full autonomy'' would provide real authority for a freely elected Palestinian self-governing body to be installed there as Israeli military government and its civilian administration are withdrawn. Remaining Israeli security forces would be redeployed into designated security areas. That is what was agreed to at Camp David.
To date, Israel's eastern neighbors reject autonomy, and Israel's negotiating position, land expropriation, settlements, and dismissals of elected officials destroy confidence that Israel would allow freely elected representatives to function as was agreed at Camp David.
2. The US and Israel must review in depth whether they are still working together toward the negotiated - not imposed - settlement to which they committed themselves at Camp David. That settlement was to be based on Security Council Resolution 242, which assumed Israel's withdrawal in return for peace and security. Today, Israel seeks to impose its control by annexing East Jerusalem, extending Israeli law to the Golan Heights, and asserting its eventual claim to sovereignty in the West Bank. If Israel is headed toward long-term subjugation of one million Palestinians in territories occupied in 1967, the US needs to state, and Israel needs to understand now, what the US will and will not support. The US cannot both support Israeli repression and keep its commitment to the wider peace which its interests require.
3. Fulfilling its commitment to a wider peace requires the US to work toward a statement by Israel's eastern neighbors of their readiness to negotiate peace with Israel. Those in Israel who want a negotiated rather than a winner-take-all solution rightly lament that there is no clear-cut offer of peace from the eastern Arabs - except Jordan. And there is no firm American position.
A peace offer from Israel's neighbors, including the Palestinians, which the US could welcome, would sustain serious debate within Israel about Israel's present course. In any case, a wider peace - even implementing an autonomy agreement as a step toward peace - requires that these Arabs and Israel define the basis on which they will make peace. To resume the autonomy talks and even to sort out relations with Israel will not by themselves be enough unless the US has a regional strategy for pursuing peace.
As was agreed at Camp David, the historic developments of recent years ''have created an unprecedented opportunity for peace which must not be lost if this generation and future generations are to be spared the tragedies of war.'' Those who let that opportunity slip away will bear a heavy burden. We must ponder our commitments as a nation and insist that our highest leaders give high priority to keeping them.