The climb toward Mideast peace
SEVERAL approaches have been proposed for resolving the Israeli-Arab impasse. This impasse provoked the current Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories, which in turn has become the central issue in Israel's November national elections. All the solutions, unfortunately, appear flawed. The indefatigable American secretary of state, George Shultz, has put forward an accelerated version of the Camp David accords. The secretary would limit the period of autonomy for the West Bank agreed to at Camp David and establish an early date for self-determination by the Arab residents.
The secretary reluctantly agreed to an international conference of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to sponsor peace talks. To minimize Soviet influence in a settlement, however, the secretary would limit the role of the permanent members to providing the umbrella for direct negotiations.
Secretary Shultz's proposal was rejected both by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and by the Arab states. It has, however, been embraced, with some reservations, by Israel's foreign minister, Shimon Peres.
Mr. Shamir, notwithstanding his foreign minister's stand, proposes to revive the scenario of the Camp David accords, which he voted against in the Knesset, namely a five-year period of autonomy for West Bank residents followed by limited self-determination, to be worked out through negotiation. Shamir is against the proposed international conference, fearing that such a conference would seek to impose a settlement on Israel.
Despite his newborn support of the Camp David accords, Shamir is not willing to yield the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem on terms acceptable to the Arabs. He would grant a measure of autonomy, as Camp David provides, but in a more restricted way than contemplated by the accords. The prime minister is adamant against a Palestinian independent state on the West Bank, whatever the residents' views, both Arabs and Iraelis. He has also repeatedly stated that the issue of Jerusalem is non-negotiable. In effect, Shamir asserts Israel's sovereignty over the West Bank, although not voicing this concept.
Foreign Minister Peres has a different solution and favors a different approach. His proposal is land for peace, and he supports an international conference. He conceives of such a conference as a fig leaf for direct negotiations between the involved parties.
Land for peace is an attractive slogan and seems to be supported by many Israelis, some leaders of American Jewry, and the administration. But there is a rub. Mr. Peres's proposal does not define the extent of the withdrawal. Virtually all Arab countries, including the moderate ones, however, are insistent that the withdrawal be to the pre-1967 boundaries, and particularly they insist upon the return of East Jerusalem. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Yasser Arafat have never repealed their resolution that asserts sovereignty not only of the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem, but also of Israel proper. Nor have they accepted Resolutions 242 and 338 of the United Nations Security Council, which call for recognition of Israel.
While Peres's statement of willingness to trade land for peace is most general in its terms, Israel's Labor Party, with Peres's endorsement, has been specific. The Labor Party supports those border rectifications it deems necessary for Israel's security. It defines the Jordan River to be Israel's security boundary and provides that the entire West Bank be demilitarized.
Further, the Labor Party, like Shamir, strongly opposes the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank. Also, Labor insists that a peace settlement confirm that Jerusalem should remain undivided and under Israel's sovereignty.
Another complicating factor is the Golan Heights. President Hafez Assad of Syria insists upon return of all the Golan Heights. A majority of Israelis, regardless of party or political differences, opposes this, because of perceived dangers to Israel's northern settlements.
The Arabs are just as adamant about wanting the return of the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem as the Israelis are about keeping them. It seems to me, therefore, that the real issues at stake are not the convening of an international conference and the extent of Israeli withdrawal, which appear negotiable, but an independent Palestinian state for the West Bank, the possession of the Golan Heights, and sovereignty over East Jerusalem.
Even assuming that the Soviets, the United States, and other sponsors of such a conference would agree on a formula to settle these issues, if the parties concerned object, there will be no settlement.
There is an old American saying - it takes two to tango. Menachem Begin had Egypt's Anwar Sadat. Assuming an agreement for a fresh round of direct negotiations, the question recurs: between whom?
With respect to Syria and Israel about the Golan Heights, the negotiating parties are evident. In the case of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, Peres had assumed it would be Israel and Jordan - an option removed by King Hussein's recent cutting of political ties to the West Bank. The Labor Party now calls for negotiations with ``Jordan and the Palestinians.''
In any case, the prospect for such talks appear clouded, in light of the PLO's unchanged position on recognizing Israel, the intifadah on the West Bank, and the concerns of other Arab states, particularly with respect to East Jerusalem.
It is also doubtful that the PLO, if it changed its program and accepted UN Resolutions 242 and 338, can control the new generation of Palestinian residents of the West Bank, who are the actual participants in the uprising. This, notwithstanding that Arab financing of the intifadah is channeled through the PLO.
Further, no charismatic leaders have emerged among the intifadah. Thus, surrendering some land for peace on the West Bank, as Peres proposes, will not bring about a comprehensive peace settlement, for lack of reasonable negotiating adversaries.
What, then, is the solution? The solutions that have been proposed are intolerable to both Arabs and Israelis. A reasonable compromise is not at hand. It will require patience - perhaps over a very long time.
All polls indicate that Israelis, and many Arabs as well, yearn for peace. But the ardent desire of Israelis does not encompass surrendering East Jerusalem, relinquishing substantial security arrangements on the West Bank, returning all of the Golan to Syria, and establishing an independent Palestinian state for the West Bank. The Arab states seem equally firm in opposition.
Time does work changes. I hope that with patience, statesmen on both sides will be able to devise a peaceful settlement.
Arthur J. Goldberg is former US ambassador to the UN and a former justice of the United States Supreme Court.