Israel takes dim view of European alternatives to Camp David peace process
If there is a recipe for Middle East peacemaking, the Israelis believe they obtained it from former President Carter at Camp David three years ago. Substitutes, such as the European initiative that would bring the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) into the negotiating process, along with a withdrawal to the 1949-1967 armistice lines, are seen here as superfluous if not actually harmful.
There is practically no debate here over the proposals for ending the Arab-Israeli dispute as outlined in concert by the French, British, and West Germans with the approval of other members of the Western European community. Instead, the Israelis ponder the motives, origin, and diplomatic impact of the unsolicited European program.
The only degree of uncertainty in this regard is being generated from Cairo, mainly by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Israel's Camp David partner has expressed himself ambiguously on the European initiative's efficacy, especially during his recent tour of West European capitals.
Not so Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
He rejected the recent guidelines for Middle East peace adopted by the 10 partipating West European states at their Venice conference as "absolutely detrimental to the peace process."
Mr. Begin has ruled out any negotiation with the PLO on the grounds that its charter advocates the "destruction" of the Jewish state.
"And according to Camp David," Mr. Begin said, quoting the decisions taken at the United States presidential retreat as if they were biblical writ, "They [the PLO] are not partners at all, and we didn't invite them in.
"And neither the Americans, nor the Egyptians, nor the Israelis invited them to come."
Some diplomats based in this country admit they are unable to explain the impetus for the European initiative and particularly British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's espousal of the same.
The cynics among them suspect that the West Europeans simply want to look good in Arab eyes, thus assuring a smooth supply of precious Middle East oil for their respective needs.
Those who tend toward charitable analysis suggest that the Europeans maybe trying to fill the gap created by the protracted suspension of Egyptian-Isreali-American talks on Palestinian autonomy. If so, this would confirm to Israel's own view that active diplomacy is essential to prevent Middle East tensions from developing into large-scale hostilities.
Israeli analysts seeking the impetus for the European initiative generally truce it to Paris, charging that France's pro-Arab policy managed to dominate Europe's current approach to the Middle East. Mrs. Thatcher, they suggest, is going along with the French in return for anticipated political reciprocation on other issues from the Quai d'Orsay.
The Reagan administration's evident antipathy for the PLO (the US President has termed it a terrorist organization and his government colleagues join him in condemning its links with the Soviet Union) is providing considerable relief for Israel's policymakers.
Official quarters expect the United States to adhere strictly to the Camp David guidelines without any modification along European lines.
But the Jerusalem Post warns that failure to resolve the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip with their component Palestinian inhabitants might tempt the Reagan administration to reconsider the European ideas and revise its attitude towards the PLO.
"This might be especially true of Secretary of State [Alexander M.] Haig, whose years as NATO chief in Europe no doubt lent him more appreciation of Europe an perspectives," the Post said.