Courtesy Reuters

Israeli Politics and American Foreign Policy

President Reagan's address to the nation on September 1 deftly reengaged the United States in the Arab-Israeli peace process. At long last Washington broke free from the straitjacket of deadlocked autonomy negotiations to declare its intention of vigorously pursuing resolution of basic political issues. The success of this initiative will be tested by the extent to which subsequent political change in Israel and in the Arab world produces foreign policies gradually more conducive to compromise.

American foreign policy must indeed seek concessions from both sides, from Arabs as well as Israelis. Whatever signs of moderation can be elicited, on either side, will enhance prospects for positive movement on the other. We should continue to press Arab leaders to declare unambiguously their willingness to recognize and negotiate with Israel, reciprocating Israel's longstanding position on these points. In this regard it was right for Vice President Bush to state, publicly and promptly, that the Fez declaration of September falls short of the necessary explicit acceptance of Israel's right to exist.

But when one looks at Arab and official Israeli attitudes toward the substance of the Reagan initiative, the asymmetry runs the other way. Whereas the Arab side has found positive aspects in the Reagan proposals, the present Israeli government has rejected them out of hand, even as a basis for discussion. It is increasingly apparent that Jordan, Saudi Arabia, other moderate Arab states, and even portions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), are fundamentally willing to join Egypt in pursuit of a peace agreement consistent with what we consider to be Israel's security requirements and legal rights. The problem, on the Arab side, is to make that willingness as straightforward and explicit as possible-as a test of sincerity and as a spur to positive change in Israel. On the Israeli side the problem is quite different, at least as long as a right-wing government of the present complexion remains in power. The problem is not to make explicit and definite a willingness to compromise

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