Courtesy Reuters

Engagement in the Middle East

In mid-November of last year, I concluded an article for Foreign Affairs on the October War and the future of the Arab-Israeli conflict by saying that a resolution of the conflict had at last become a real possibility for the parties directly concerned, and an imperative necessity for all the outsiders that have been involved in it. I added that a successful wedding of the outside powers' need to the possibilities latent in the situation required sensitivity to the fundamental concerns of the parties, imaginative diplomacy, and statesmanlike timing. In the nine months that have elapsed since I wrote those words, the United States, Europe and Japan, and up to this point the Soviet Union, have given ample evidence of their eagerness for peace. The United States in particular has taken the lead in trying to promote an Arab-Israeli settlement, and Secretary of State Kissinger has twice treated the world to breathtaking experiments in diplomacy, shuttling between half a dozen capitals to sustain two "campaigns" of negotiations of hitherto unprecedented intensity.

The campaigns have produced two disengagement accords-between Israel and Egypt, then between Israel and Syria. On the surface, these agreements seem to be utterly disproportionate to the immense effort invested in reaching them. They seem to deal essentially with temporary measures to establish an effective ceasefire and not with the tough central issues of peace, such as permanent boundaries, security provisions, the fate of the Palestinians, the future of Jerusalem. However, a closer look would show the disengagement agreements and the manner in which they were brought about to be of vital importance not only for the immediate prospects for peace between the Arabs and Israelis, but also for the entire future order of the Middle East in the context of the international political balance, and for the U.S. role in that order.

But there is a price to be paid for these achievements and prospects which the American people may not be aware of. The disengagement process in

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