For Baker, the Hard Part Has Hardly Begun
SECRETARY of State James Baker III, his hopes bolstered by positive responses from Arab states, has resumed his pursuit of an Arab-Israeli settlement. If the past is any judge, however, whatever the success of this latest round may be, it will still represent only a preliminary stage in the quest for peace.Where even partial agreements among the parties have been reached - such as in UN Resolution 242 after the 1967 war, the Disengagement Agreements after the 1973 war, or the Camp David Accords after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's dramatic trip to Jerusalem in 1977 - the process has involved a US initiative and at least four subsequent phases: The regional response. The replies of the several parties - the Arab states, Israel, and the Palestinians - to any initiative are governed by attitudes within their own countries or communities, likely responses of other parties, and the importance they attach to relations with the United States. The US may show a greater interest in a peaceful resolution of the issues than those in the region. Many in Israel, for example, clearly believe that the status quo may be better than a peace that would give up territory. Some Arab states fear a hostile internal reaction to participation in a US-sponsored peace effort more than they fear the consequences of continued conflict. The procedure. The more effective US initiatives of the past have concentrated initially on process. Before any substantive issues were addressed, difficult negotiations ensued over where and how the parties would meet, whether at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, a Geneva conference, or a gathering at Camp David. More recently these procedural negotiations have included, also, the question of Palestinian representation. The Arabs have traditionally wanted an international session including the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) that reduced the focus on any single state's meeting with Israel; Israel, on the other hand, has wanted face-to-face bilateral meetings with each Arab state, excluding the PLO. A seemingly routine protocol question thus becomes politically symbolic. Secretary Baker's current efforts c oncentrate on the convening of an international conference, including issues of the UN role, Palestinian representation, the organization of Arab-Israeli bilateral talks, and the reconvening of the conference. The issues. It has become almost axiomatic in approaching peace in the Middle East that agreement on procedure must precede any efforts to discuss realistic compromises on the basic issues of territories, boundaries, security, settlements, and Jerusalem. The public positions of the parties in the region are far apart. Syria wants the Golan Heights; Israel says that territory is already part of the Jewish state. The Palestinians want a state; Israel says no. Jerusalem is a highly emotional and apparently irreconcilable issue on both sides. For the US to raise such issues prematurely could jeopardize the effort to bring the parties to a conference; even to plan positions secretly is to risk leaks that would have the same effect. The agreement. At some stage, mediators and the parties must make a choice between a limited agreement or a comprehensive peace. An accord that would resolve all questions is obviously desirable, but may be unattainable. How much can be achieved depends on gaining the consent not only of governments but also of factions within nations and within the Palestine community. The Camp David accords were intended as a comprehensive framework for peace, but only partially succeeded; the United States and Egypt were never able to gain the cooperation of Syria, Jordan, or the Palestinians; misunderstandings with Israel were never fully resolved. In this process, momentum plays a role. Parties cannot stand totally aside while others appear to be winning international credit. Even if governments are resistant, publics, especially in democracies such as Israel, will have a voice.