Given the summer's immersion in day-to-day death and destruction in Lebanon, we need to begin putting the Israeli-Palestinian War of 1982 in larger perspective. For better or worse, it will mark a turning point in the history of Israel, in the course of Arab-Israeli relations, in U.S.-Israeli relations, in the political character and orientation of important Middle Eastern states, and in the U.S. position in that critical area.

To understand the significance of the war, it is necessary first to assess what Israel set out to accomplish by sending its forces into Lebanon. As is usual in almost any war, it had both immediate war aims and ultimate political objectives; although the two usually overlap, and did in this case, it is useful to distinguish between them.

The initially stated Israeli war aim was to clear a zone in southern Lebanon of weapons and fighters within reach of northern Israel. This war aim-"Peace for Galilee"-was understandable in view of past attacks on Israel's northern communities and the growing stockpile of Palestinian equipment in the region.

Within a few days, as Israeli forces moved rapidly north to lay siege to Beirut, Israel's stated war aims were expanded to include the eviction from Lebanon of the military presence and political headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization. This aim had a plausible basis as part of protecting Israel's physical security; it also conformed to the widespread desire of most Lebanese to be rid of the disruptive PLO apparatus there.

Even before the move north, the Israeli air force carried out sharp and effective attacks on Syrian antiaircraft batteries, engaging and destroying Syrian aircraft as well. These operations plainly reflected an objective of neutralizing Syrian forces and in the process discrediting Soviet assistance and equipment.

It also became evident that Israel had objectives in terms of the political structure of Lebanon itself. At a minimum, it sought to preserve and enlarge an Israeli-dominated buffer zone in southern Lebanon. Moreover, Israeli authorities sought to have their Maronite Christian allies emerge in control of Lebanon, or to lay the foundation for a lasting Israeli-Syrian condominium there.

But the ultimate political objectives of Israel's leaders did not stop there. The physical removal of the PLO apparatus from Lebanon was seen as a means to a larger end-one frankly avowed in the statements of these leaders for several months. That end was the destruction of the organized Palestinian movement. With a fragmented and dispersed PLO, Israeli leaders foresaw the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza-deprived of outside moral support-coming to accept permanent Israeli control there, in a situation in which much of that Palestinian population could be induced (or gradually coerced) to migrate across the Jordan River into Jordan.

In short, the most important Israeli objective was to resolve the Palestinian problem once and for all, by making the remaining Palestinians merely an ethnic minority within an enlarged Israel, and ultimately by transforming Jordan into a Republic of Palestine, with an accepted Palestinian diaspora elsewhere. As Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir has stated frankly in these pages, the only Palestinian "homeland" is to be Jordan, as "eastern Palestine."1

Thus, the Israeli-Palestinian War was fought mainly over whether an organized Palestinian movement would survive in order to negotiate peace between Israelis and Palestinians as two people with equal rights. It was not fought only to determine how many Palestinian fighters should be where in Lebanon. The Palestinians' objective was to emerge from the fighting in some way that would prove that even Israel's military might could not destroy the Palestinian national movement or impose Israel's solution on it.

This definition of the central issue behind the war will be controversial. But it is amply supported both by the way Israel conducted the war and by the long-standing aims of the men who now rule Israel, Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, and their principal colleagues.

As this is written, it seems clear that Israel has achieved its war aim of evicting the PLO headquarters and military presence from Lebanon, and that the practical situation there will lend itself to lasting achievement of the war aim of militarily securing Israel's northern communities. Moreover, Bashir Gemayel, leader of the Maronite Christian Phalange and the candidate obviously favored by Israel, has just been elected President of Lebanon.

It remains to be seen what Lebanon will become, and whether its future will be determined by military pressures and force or by negotiation and peaceful processes. This is the immediate issue that will start to be addressed as this article is in press, but that is unlikely to be quickly resolved. The war has underscored the urgency of restoring peace and stability in Lebanon for Lebanon's sake.

But it is critical that no one be derailed into thinking that the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been or will be resolved in Lebanon. The war did not destroy Palestinian nationalism, and four million Palestinians remain in the Middle East and elsewhere.

What this invasion has done is to firmly establish the need for Israeli-Palestinian peace on the peacemaker's agenda along with peace between Israel and its neighboring states. The future of Lebanon is indeed of crucial importance-and, as we shall see, cannot even in itself be separated from the future of the Palestinian issue. It is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict above all that must now be addressed, and set on the way to solution, in all of its aspects and in the context of an Arab-Israeli settlement.

The war has posed the issue sharply: Will the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved by negotiation in the near future or by force over time? Will Israel impose its sovereignty over the remaining land west of the Jordan River occupied in 1967? Will the Palestinians dedicate themselves to continued warfare? Or will both parties commit themselves to achieve peace in the land west of the Jordan, as envisioned at Camp David, through fair negotiations involving Israelis and Palestinians?

How the Palestinian problem is dealt with by the United States in the wake of the war will affect the U.S. position in the Middle East for some time to come. U.S. interests in the wider sense require a comprehensive strategy for an Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace which looks well beyond the crisis in Lebanon. At the heart of a comprehensive strategy must be a process for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Such a strategy can succeed only with the continuous and determined involvement of the President of the United States and his Secretary of State. The decisions they make and their perseverance in carrying out those decisions will be evidence to the rest of the world of the ability of the United States to use its power wisely and justly. If they cannot respond effectively, a decade from now Americans who care will be arguing over who lost the Middle East.

The purpose of this article is to assess the balance of forces in the aftermath of the war, to identify next steps in Lebanon, to analyze what an Israeli-Palestinian peace process requires, and to suggest the elements of a comprehensive U.S. strategy for helping to move toward an Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace. It may seem absurd to write of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process just after Israel has tried with all its power to destroy the structure of the Palestinian movement in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as in Lebanon. But how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dealt with now will determine whether Israelis and Arabs capture a last chance to negotiate peaceful relations in this generation. The alternative is another generation of conflict which could well end in a nuclear holocaust.


The question after any war is what the new balance of forces is and how it can be used to build something positive from the rubble. Opportunity does not automatically spring from that rubble. Opportunity comes out of destruction only when statesmen with a vision of peace and growth work with greater creativity and tireless diligence to fashion hope from the ashes.

At this moment, it is by no means clear that the 1982 war has ended: there remain serious possibilities that fighting will be renewed, and a high probability that isolated actions will continue. Let us assume, however, that there is no renewal of organized military conflict, and look candidly at the impact of the war on the principal actors.

First, this war has again demonstrated that, in Arab words, "Israel is the superpower of the Middle East." With Egypt absent, there is no Arab military constraint on Israeli leaders who are willing to use their power to the fullest and who seem to believe that Israel's future can be assured by force alone. As just noted, Israel's attack on Syria's Soviet-supplied air defense missiles seemed designed to show that the Arabs could not rely on Moscow for help. Israel's open dismissal of President Reagan's repeated appeals to stop the bombardment of Beirut and to give the negotiations conducted by Ambassador Philip Habib a chance seemed designed to show the Arabs that they could not expect the United States to impose peace on Israel.

In Arab eyes, Israeli military encirclement of an Arab capital and the related Israeli objective of remaking the political life of an Arab country imposed a new character on what they see as Israeli expansionism. Thoughtful Arabs, looking to the future, put high on their agendas the need to show Israel that it cannot count on getting its way by force. In the end, most Arabs still look to the United States to reestablish some restraining influence over an Israel they regard as out of control.

Second, a central question is how the Palestinians will emerge. If an organized Palestinian movement survives in the aftermath of the war, preserving what institutions exist in the Palestinian community and able to play a political role, a peace process could begin sooner than if the movement is atomized or divided by internecine struggles. If Palestinian leadership were eventually to settle in Cairo rather than Damascus, it would receive greater support in pursuing a political course. Whether leadership committed to peace or to a continued guerrilla campaign emerges from the crisis, and whether most Arab states will agree that Palestinian military action from Lebanon and terrorism elsewhere should cease, will depend heavily on whether Palestinians and other Arabs see a real diplomatic alternative.

Ambassador Habib, to his great credit, seems to have kept the door open for Palestinian leadership to build a new future. The Palestinian movement is not dead politically. In some Arab eyes the PLO has emerged from the crisis as the only heroic party, having demonstrated that Israel with all of its power could not destroy the symbol and the organization of Palestinian nationalism. Whether the leadership will pull itself together and show its ability to act with a coherent strategy on the diplomatic stage, only time will tell.

Third, with the headquarters and military arm of the PLO gone, Lebanon can return to dealing with the problems which were already beginning to divide it before the new PLO influx that began in the early 1970s. It is now being said in many quarters that the enlarged and militarized PLO presence in Lebanon was the sole cause of the armed conflict there that began in 1975-76 and continued at substantial levels of violence thereafter. Even in Lebanon it has not been popular to say that there are grave Lebanese problems which have only been exacerbated by the PLO presence. But the plain fact is that many Lebanese have voiced concern privately for more than a decade that the 1943 French-influenced compact underlying Lebanon's political organization and integrity was disintegrating-and that Lebanese leaders in a position to restore that integrity were more interested in enhancing their own power than in strengthening the unity of Lebanon.

With the organized Palestinians a less significant factor, Israel and Syria are still in positions to inhibit free and constructive Lebanese efforts to build a new Lebanon. A critical issue as the new balance of forces is shaped will be whether Lebanon is freed of international intervention so that Lebanese will have a fair opportunity to reestablish the integrity and independence of their state, or whether Israel and Syria will try to enhance their own power by carving out semi-permanent positions for themselves in Lebanon. That option is already being discussed in Israel, and many Arabs are already anticipating such an Israeli move.

Fourth, it is necessary to assess carefully the attitudes of the Arab states. The war has not changed the readiness of Egypt, Jordan, and some other moderate Arabs to pursue peace with Israel on a reciprocal basis or to work with the United States toward that end, but it has caused all of them to question seriously whether Israel will negotiate a just peace and whether the United States will take a position independent of Israel's. It is widely believed that the United States acquiesced in Israel's invasion of Lebanon, and few Arabs believe that the United States could not have prevented Israel's heavy bombardments.

It may still be possible to produce a statement by moderate Arab nations of their readiness to make peace, but it seems unlikely that the entire Arab world could unite on such a position. The moderates will probably have to move on their own. Iraq could well move toward the moderates, given its dependence on moderate Arab support against Iran. There will, however, continue to be a small group of states like Libya, South Yemen, and some of the more extreme Palestinian groups, who will reject any initiative to make peace with Israel. The positions of Syria and Algeria remain question marks. The position and leadership of the United States will be an important factor in the decision of each Arab state.

Much has been made of the reluctance of Arab states to accept the PLO apparatus now being evacuated from Beirut. And it is clear that each of these states will be careful to assure that the PLO does not come close to achieving within its borders the independent strength it achieved in Jordan in 1970 or subsequently in Lebanon.

But this does not mean that Arab support for Palestinian self-determination and a state in the West Bank and Gaza, or for the PLO as the only organization which speaks for the Palestinians, has declined. Even those Arab governments and groups that have come to accept the existence of Israel, within essentially its pre-1967 boundaries, likewise accept and support, however belatedly in historic terms, the reality and force of Palestinian demands for a homeland of their own. In their view, that homeland should include the West Bank and Gaza, which would be freed if Israel withdrew from territories occupied in the 1967 War. In the wake of the 1982 war, there is already much evidence that underlying Arab support for the Palestinian cause has been increased by Israel's conduct of the war.

Moreover, there are often practical reasons for such support from Arab governments, especially those with large Palestinian populations. They see a dispersed Palestinian people as a politically disruptive force as long as their aspiration for a homeland of their own is unfulfilled. For that reason, among the others just stated, they will continue to press for an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Iran's military successes over Iraq and its strong support of some factions in the PLO give moderate Arab leaders added incentive for wanting to develop a political alternative for the Palestinians that has a realistic chance of producing results.

In sum, the war has created, or intensified, attitudes that are often conflicting and that could now move in either direction. On the one hand, they could be channeled to produce a new process leading toward an Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Administration in Washington is again becoming directly engaged in the problems of the Middle East. Israel has demonstrated clearly what its objectives are, and has posed sharply for the United States the question of what the U.S.-Israeli relationship has become. The PLO has been forced to face the fact that its only hope for achieving its objectives is through political and diplomatic effort. Moderate Arab governments are deeply enough concerned about the radicalization of the Middle East that they may be prepared to support a Palestinian peace initiative.

Peace can come, however, only if statesmen work hard at it. The new balance of forces if left alone could more likely harden into the causes of a new and more terrible conflict before the 1980s end. After each major conflict-in 1949, 1956, 1967, 1973-opportunities have briefly existed for leaders of vision. The psychological humiliations in 1949 and 1967 made it harder for Arab leaders to negotiate. Limited Arab successes in 1973 opened the door to negotiation. If Israel's crushing military actions were now to be followed by a continued application of force by Israel in Lebanon, and the unchecked continuation of Israel's present policies in the West Bank and Gaza-so that there existed no apparent possibility of movement toward a negotiated resolution of the Palestinian issue-the 1982 war will have left the parties further apart than ever. We could look forward only to all the possibilities and dangers this would entail, including Arab alienation from the United States and progressive radicalization in the Arab world, and organized and unorganized violence growing both in the Middle East and elsewhere.


A critical step in achieving a balance of forces conducive to peace will be restoring Lebanon's political and territorial integrity and its self-government. This is of overriding concern for the sake of the people of Lebanon, who have suffered too long.

Obviously, there is an immediate need for a massive program of humanitarian and economic aid to help the Lebanese rebuild their country, and this should be undertaken by the widest possible group of nations, with the United States playing an important role. However, such a program will not have lasting effectiveness unless there is a new political consensus within Lebanon.

Restoring Lebanon's integrity is essential also in establishing the basis for a wider peace. Israel must withdraw quickly and completely before its occupation of south Lebanon hardens. Israel's remaining credibility as a nation claiming to want a negotiated peace with its neighbors on the basis of respect for each other's sovereignty depends on it. Consolidation of Israel's position in Lebanon will be a final confirmation that Israel with U.S. support intends to resolve issues by force, not by negotiation. Israel's withdrawal is not an issue for compromise.

Moreover, there will remain in any circumstances a Palestinian population of at least 500,000 in Lebanon. If that population (which is bound to include some remnants of the PLO military and political apparatus) sees no prospect of movement toward a Palestinian homeland-and especially if it sees Israel acting to deal with the West Bank and Gaza by pressure and force-it is bound to become again a serious disruptive force within the political structure of Lebanon.

It follows that, while there may be a tendency to think of the issue of foreign forces in Lebanon as a "Phase II" of negotiations to wind up the 1982 war, and of the Palestinian issue as "Phase III," in practice the two issues must be addressed simultaneously. There will be pressures, and a clear Israeli interest, to pursue the two problems in sequence. This must be avoided, from every standpoint and because the issues are in fact interlocked. Moreover, we should keep in mind the vivid lesson of 1974-75, when the issues of immediate withdrawal from Egypt and from the Golan Heights were addressed while the Palestinian issue was put to one side. The result, of course, was the Rabat decision of late 1974 that installed the PLO as the only Arab-backed negotiating partner for the West Bank and Gaza, removed Jordan from the play, and generally hardened Arab positions on the Palestinian issue. It was a mistake that must not be repeated.

If Israel is to withdraw safely, two steps related to Lebanon will be required. First, a strengthened peacekeeping force must be put in place quickly, with an effective mandate to assure a zone of peace above Israel's northern border until a Lebanese force is able to do so. Second, all parties to the conflict must support a new compact for Lebanon. Syria and Israel must end their intervention in Lebanon's internal affairs. Syrian and Israeli withdrawals should be worked out on parallel but separate tracks because the backgrounds of their respective involvements raise quite different issues. Lebanese factions need to agree to reconstitute a workable central government. This will require agreement on new relationships among them, reviewing and revising the 1943 compact as they think necessary.

Finally, it is important to move quickly to help both the Lebanese and the Palestinian homeless. The Palestinians pose a special problem because their plight raises the question of how and where they should be provided new housing and new communities. Confronted now with resettling a fourth (1948, 1967, 1970, 1982) wave of Palestinian refugees, the United Nations and those who support its Palestinian relief program face again the question of building "temporary" housing for several hundred thousand people. Israel is already insisting that camps should not be rebuilt in southern Lebanon.

If there is to be a real effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, housing could be truly temporary. If not, perhaps these people are entitled to more than makeshift quarters. Whatever is done about their housing, it has long been agreed that those refugees who cannot or do not want to return to property in Palestine are entitled to compensation for property lost. Israel will then raise the separate question of the claims of Jews who lost property when they left Arab countries.

In short, as the world deals with another group of Palestinian refugees, it must consider whether now is not the time to establish a framework for dealing with the refugee problem in the context of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.


If we are going to try to develop an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it is important for us to understand what such a process will involve. In 1977-78, the United States was dealing with two negotiating partners, Israel and Egypt, who were prepared to work on a negotiated approach to the issue of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, even though they clearly differed on the ultimate political solution for the area. Now, however, it is clear that there does not exist a willingness on the Israeli side to seek a true negotiated approach, and that the Arab side does not see any possibility of progress in the face of Israeli attitudes. Moreover, the Arab states other than Egypt have declined to participate in the Camp David peace process, and only Egypt and Jordan have made clear their acceptance of the existence of Israel.

In short, after several years of detailed Egyptian-Israeli negotiation, we are now back near the beginning of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in a pre-negotiation phase dealing with attitudes that block negotiation. We are used to running in third and fourth gear. Now we need to shift directly back to first. Unless we understand that the first need is to change basic attitudes rather than to negotiate texts, any next steps to launch an Israeli-Palestinian peace process will start us up a dead-end street.

Today the government of Israel is seen, with reason, as pursuing a peace imposed by force and by the passage of time rather than a negotiated peace. As one Egyptian speaking this July put it in retrospect, "The fifth Arab-Israeli war started within days after Camp David, when Prime Minister Begin announced that the government's policy of building new settlements in territories occupied in 1967 would continue." This signaled that key issues would be dealt with unilaterally outside negotiation. Anyone who has seen the massive concrete blocks of settlement apartment buildings in the West Bank and ringing Jerusalem will understand the impact of the Israeli government's actions. Step by step, the Begin government extended its control over land, water, administration and the movements of daily life in the West Bank and Gaza.

In August 1981, when the second Begin government was formed and Ariel Sharon became Defense Minister, the government announced openly that its policy was to assert Israel's claim of sovereignty over all the land west of the Jordan River-not to negotiate a peaceful and just settlement of the Palestinian problem in all its aspects as agreed at Camp David. The Israeli administration in occupied territories intensified its campaign to restrict the authority of democratically elected Palestinian officials and, eventually, to remove them from office, to break their ties with the Palestinian national movement outside the occupied territories, and to set up an alternative group of compliant local Palestinian administrators.

The Israeli invasion of Lebanon, to repeat, was designed to destroy once and for all any hope among the people of the West Bank and Gaza that the process of shaping the Palestinian people into a nation could succeed. It was designed to break any final resistance to total Israeli control and to pave the way for making life so difficult for those who valued their freedom and political self-expression that they would eventually leave for Jordan.

For their part, neither the Arab states (apart from Egypt and Jordan) nor the PLO have been prepared formally to accept Israel's existence as a state. Such acceptance of Israel is indeed central to peaceful resolution of the conflict.

A critical missing ingredient in the peace process is a clear-cut statement by Arab and Palestinian authorities of their readiness to make peace with Israel provided Israel will make peace with them. Attitudes within the PLO and Arab governments have moved toward acceptance of Israel. In contrast to the Arab position adopted in 1967-no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiation with Israel-a number of important Arab leaders today will state privately that they are prepared to live at peace with Israel. Their formal public positions, however, are evasive on that point and do not present Israelis with an offer of peace Israelis can call realistic.

Moreover, the PLO and Arab governments except Egypt rejected the two-stage negotiating process agreed to at Camp David and refused to start negotiations unless the outcome of the negotiation was assured before the negotiation began. When Saudi Crown Prince Fahd, in August 1981, put forward a position including both a stated objective and a transitional process for achieving it, Arab leaders could not agree to support it, and the Saudi government itself would not authoritatively and unequivocally say the plan provided for recognition of Israel.

No one with any experience in the Middle East can minimize the depth of feeling on both sides that lies behind these attitudes. They date back to the creation of Israel and the division of Palestine in 1948, and although there has been a great deal of change in the 1970s in underlying Arab attitudes, those in Israel have tended to harden since 1977. The essential point of disagreement is whether Israel and the Palestinians each have valid claims in the area defined in 1948 as Palestine.

Today, in Israel, there may be serious challenge to a definition of the Palestinian problem which acknowledges both Israeli and Palestinian claims in the same land. Many Israelis fear that accepting a Palestinian claim would dilute their own claim to all the land west of the Jordan River. Again and again in Israel one hears the sincerely stated view of early settlers that the Palestinians were doing little with the land when the Jewish settlers came. In their view, the Palestinians became active only when they wanted to share in gains the Israeli settlers were achieving. Arab states, they recall, either did not regard the Palestinians as a separate people or did not support them in establishing a state of their own when Jordan controlled the West Bank, and Egypt controlled Gaza, from 1949 until 1967.

Palestinian nationalism, in their view, is the product of terrorism and intimidation by the PLO under Yasser Arafat, and with the PLO's defeat in Lebanon, Palestinian nationalism will decline as an effective political force. The Israelis from the beginning of Jewish settlement in Palestine have either set aside the question of their long-term relationship with the Palestinian Arabs or have vaguely envisioned some kind of coexistence which Israel would dominate. Even those who are prepared to accept partitioning the land west of the Jordan River between Jews and Arabs for the most part see the Arab role being played by Jordan and not by Palestine Arabs acting independently. Most Israelis have never thought of a negotiated settlement with Palestinian Arabs as an equal partner.

At the same time, Israelis are not monolithic in support of their government's plan to assert Israel's claim of sovereignty over all the land west of the Jordan River. Many other Israelis see Israel facing an impossible future if they pursue that course. Incorporating 1.2 million Palestinian Arabs within Israel along with those already there, with appropriate civil and political rights, would eventually produce a large enough Arab population to destroy the Jewish state. Incorporating those Palestinians without civil and political rights would require measures that would violate the principles and practice of human rights which are at the heart of Jewish tradition. And driving large numbers of Palestinians out of the West Bank and Gaza by force or pressure goes against the moral code and self-image of their country held by many if not most in Israel, as well as among its supporters abroad.

Palestinians and other Arabs, wherever they are, strongly hold the view that Israel will achieve peace only when Israel comes to terms fairly with the Palestinian people and respects their right to self-determination as the Jewish people have enjoyed their own. The rights of Palestinians as a people are belatedly recognized in some form by a majority of the world's governments. Palestinians do not want a state in Jordan, because it is not the land of their fathers. They do not understand why Zionists, who rejected a Jewish homeland in Africa, fail to comprehend why Palestinians want a homeland in the land where their homes have historically been. They do not understand how an Israeli Prime Minister who led violent resistance against British rule can credibly voice moral outrage at the people Israelis displaced when those people assert their rights through the means available to them. They do not understand how a Jewish government with centuries of persecution behind it could think that attacking several thousand Palestinian fighters could destroy the nationalist determination of almost four million people. They do not understand how Jews, of all people, can be insensitive to what it means to be a stateless person.

In short, the attitudes that must now be brought together have deep roots, and it will take enormous effort to bring them to the point where a serious negotiating process could get underway. At a minimum, Israel must demonstrate its willingness to accept a negotiated approach, and its abandonment of the present policy of seeking a de facto solution in the West Bank and Gaza by force-while the PLO and the Arab states must join Israel in reaffirming their support of the basic territorial provisions of Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967, as well as declaring formally their acceptance of Israel within essentially its pre-1967 boundaries.

In essence, both sides must perceive that the attitudes and formal positions of the other side now make a negotiating process more promising than any realistic alternative. It is not essential, at least for the renewal of a serious negotiating process, for both sides to agree at the outset what the ultimate result would be. This, and the ways to move to it, are exactly what the negotiation would be about.


How, then, can the necessary changes in attitude come about? Here the position of the United States is central. An active U.S. role is vital in helping to establish the basis for negotiation, and it is essential for the United States to reaffirm its own view of the Palestinian problem.

The issue is whether the United States supports a just settlement for the Palestinian people or whether it buys the argument of Begin's Israeli and American supporters that the Palestinian people are an artificial creation and that peace is only possible if they are dispersed and suppressed by force. Now is the time to thrash out among ourselves our answers to the questions that are endlessly argued. Are the Palestinians a people who will remain an effective political movement? Can they be destroyed or controlled by force? Can they be settled outside Palestine, or will their irredentist objectives persist with growing support from most of the world? Can the United States or world Jewry support an Israel built on subjugation and dispersal of another people?

For years after 1947, the United States approached the "Arab-Israeli" conflict in terms of relations between existing states. After the Partition, Jordan had assumed the Arab role in the West Bank and Egypt in Gaza, while the leadership and many members of the Palestinian Arab community were dispersed and the institutions of that community disintegrated under the impact of the war and dispersion. The Arab states did not support the creation of a Palestinian state.

Then, in 1967, the situation began to change-although Resolution 242 reflected the viewpoint of the past in referring to the Palestinians only as refugees, not as parties to the conflict or parties to the peace. Only in the late 1960s did it become abundantly clear that there was a strong Palestinian national sentiment, so that the United States, along with others, came again to think of the "Palestine problem" as a central part of the Arab-Israeli conflict. That problem, simply stated, is how two peoples-two national movements reflected in Zionism and Palestinian nationalism-can live together in peace and security with claims in the same land. Palestinian national rights gained increasing recognition internationally, as did the PLO itself.

Yet throughout these 35 years the position of the United States has been totally clear on the territorial question. In 1947, the United States voted for the U.N. resolution to partition the Palestine Mandate west of the Jordan River into a Jewish state and an Arab state, with Jerusalem set aside as a separate entity. After the 1967 War, when Israel occupied all the land west of the Jordan, the United States voted for Resolution 242, which called for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in the conflict, in the context of peace and recognition. In 1978, the United States was partner to negotiating the Camp David Accords, which reaffirmed Resolution 242. The question today is whether the Administration stands by that position and is prepared to use its influence to reaffirm it as the basis for peace negotiations.

If the United States holds to its longstanding position, while Israel continues to assert the position now taken by Prime Minister Begin and his government, then Israel and the United States clearly have a difference vital to their relationship. The United States can in no way interpret Resolution 242 or the Camp David Accords as endorsing Israeli sovereignty-whether de facto or by formal claim-imposed by force over all the land west of the Jordan River.

A sustained U.S. dialogue with Israel is thus essential to reestablish a relationship of mutual respect based on common interests. A collision is in neither nation's interest. There is no question about the fundamental U.S. commitment to the security of Israel. As of the summer of 1982, however, there was no understanding between the United States and Israel of what "Israel" the United States is being asked to support, or what American interests in the Middle East must be protected if the United States is to remain able to support Israel over the long run.

For almost 30 years, Israel and the United States operated on the shared premise that Israel should be accepted as a Jewish state in Palestine and that the land west of the Jordan River should be divided between Israel and an Arab entity. Since 1967, the United States has strongly supported negotiation as the only realistic way to produce an Arab-Israeli settlement. That was also a shared objective until the recent period. When two friendly nations begin operating from widely different premises without talking seriously with each other about where they are going together, they are jeopardizing their relationship. There has not been a real discussion of these fundamental, long-term issues for at least two years.

In Lebanon, Israel appears increasingly to have acted without regard or respect for the interests of the United States or the expressed concerns of its President. In fairness to Israeli leaders, they may have thought over the past year that they had the silent assent of, or even a green light from, Washington, at least for their initially stated war aim. Now the war in Lebanon has forced the Administration to define for itself and for Israel somewhat more precisely what the limits of its support for Israel are. Until the United States makes absolutely clear in word and deed, in a spirit of mutual respect and commitment, what it will and will not support in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the United States will continue to look like an Israeli satellite and will risk a historic collision with Israel.

No one can say whether or how far the present government in Israel would alter its position in the face of a reaffirmed U.S. view. There are those who say flatly that Begin will never give up the West Bank-and clearly it would take not only formal statements but extensive actions to persuade the world, the Arab states or the Palestinians that Israel had in fact abandoned the objective of maintaining absolute and permanent control in the West Bank and Gaza. It is essential that Israel return convincingly at least to the negotiating position of 1977-78, although it may not be necessary at the outset for Israel to commit itself to a Palestinian homeland west of the Jordan.

In parallel with the enunciation of a firm U.S. position and a new and visible dialogue between the United States and Israel to the above ends, it is incumbent on the Arab states and the PLO to make the necessary declarations of acceptance of Israel and willingness to make peace. Today Israelis who would be willing to negotiate peace on the basis of withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967 can point to no Arab position that offers a basis for negotiation. Authoritative, unequivocal statements by the Palestinians, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, with Egyptian and other Arab support, could begin to change Israel's own perceptions of its alternatives. The Israeli people would have to decide between trying to negotiate peace and retaining territory through another generation of conflict-a choice they faced after President Anwar Sadat's visit to Jerusalem in late 1977.

Many reasonable Arabs question why the Arabs should make this first move, before Israel commits itself to Palestinian self-determination or a Palestinian homeland west of the Jordan. The response is simply a practical question of whether they want to seize the initiative in an effort to break the present impasse. It is difficult for them to do so when they feel they are acting from a position of military inferiority. What they have not yet understood is that an offer of peace could be far more effective than military weapons in changing the balance of political forces within Israel as well as in the United States.

There are strong Arab voices in the wake of the war in Lebanon-at least in Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian movement-arguing for such a move. Moderate Palestinian leaders-both in the PLO and in the West Bank-were seriously talking this July about how to make clear at least to the United States their readiness to negotiate peace with Israel. Their problem was to do so in a way that would not make them look as if they were capitulating at Israeli gunpoint. Having now withstood the on-slaught of vastly superior military power and having proved that Israel cannot destroy the Palestinian movement or impose a solution by force, the time may be at hand for them to declare a political victory and to capitalize on it by seizing the high ground on the diplomatic front.

At the same time, moderates in those countries are virtually pleading with the United States to promise convincingly that it would respond positively to such an initiative and put its weight on the scales on the side of a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Moderates need some sign to show radical opposition and doubters that a political course can produce results. If they can show no such evidence, they deeply fear a sharp increase in radical or Islamic fundamentalist influence in their countries.

In sum, once the United States has reaffirmed that its aim is peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, the first objective in launching an Israeli-Palestinian peace process is a convincing commitment on both sides to mutual acceptance and to a negotiated settlement rather than one imposed by force or by exploiting the passage of time. The support of the United States is critical in crystallizing such commitments.


The changing of attitudes on both sides is central to the resumption of any Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But at the same time it is useful to look briefly at the possible mode and participation for negotiations, and at objectives that should initially be sought.

The obvious existing framework is of course that of the Camp David Accords of 1978. Israel and Egypt then agreed that "the parties are determined to reach a just, comprehensive, and durable settlement of the Middle East conflict through the conclusion of peace treaties based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 in all their parts." This affirmation of purpose, subsequently ratified by the Israeli Knesset, remains important, and could indeed-if reaffirmed in credible fashion-be itself part of the declared change in attitudes required.

That half of the Camp David Accords that provided for an early peace treaty between Egypt and Israel has now been carried into effect. However, the second half, concerning the West Bank and Gaza, has not.

It is important to recall what was agreed at Camp David both concerning the Palestinians and concerning the specific stages of agreement and action for the West Bank and Gaza. First, it was specified that the parties

recognize that for peace to endure, it must involve all those who have been most deeply affected by the conflict. . . . Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the representatives of the Palestinian people should participate in negotiations on the resolution of the Palestinian problem in all its aspects.

And the key provisions concerning the West Bank and Gaza read as follows:

. . . in order to ensure a peaceful and orderly transfer of authority, and taking into account the security concerns of all parties, there should be transitional arrangements for the West Bank and Gaza for a period not exceeding five years. In order to provide full autonomy to the inhabitants, under these arrangements, the Israeli military government and its civilian administration will be withdrawn as soon as a self-governing authority has been freely elected by the inhabitants of these areas to replace the existing military government. . . .

These new arrangements should give due consideration to the principle of self-government by the inhabitants and to the legitimate security concerns of the parties involved. . . . As soon as possible, but not later than the third year after the beginning of the transitional period, negotiations will take place to determine the final status of the West Bank and Gaza and its relationship with its neighbors and to conclude a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan by the end of the transitional period.

In the fall of 1978, negative Arab reactions to the Accords were such that Jordan declined to participate, and there has never been any progress in enlisting the participation of Palestinian representatives, because of three interrelated facts:

- It has not been possible to produce an agreed statement of the powers and responsibilities a Palestinian self-governing authority would exercise, so that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have never been able to commit themselves on whether they would stand for election. If they were given serious responsibilities, they could achieve general support from the Palestinian diaspora. If not, responsible leaders would refuse to serve as quislings.

- Israel has removed from office freely elected mayors in the West Bank and Gaza, and has taken an adamant position against any dealings with the PLO, irrespective of any PLO acceptance of Israel and of the specified Security Council Resolutions, on the ground that the PLO is basically an illegitimate "terrorist" organization.

- The PLO itself has declined up to now to declare openly and authoritatively that it accepts Israel and is prepared to pursue a negotiated settlement if Israel is prepared to do so.

The Camp David framework is not just "the only game in town." Its concepts of a transitional period, transitional authority, and two-stage negotiations may still be the only practical approach. A series of bilateral negotiations may also be more practical than any wider multilateral forum.

Having been ratified by the Israeli Knesset, that framework remains a solid foundation to build on. If other moderate Arab states wish to participate, this should not present insuperable difficulty. But, at a minimum, ways must be found to maintain Egypt's engagement and to enlist the participation of Jordan and of Palestinian representatives, which under present circumstances almost necessarily means a role for the PLO.

If attitudes can be changed so that each party will commit itself to a negotiated approach, then agreement must be reached on how the negotiation will be carried out. Questions such as these must be dealt with: To what extent must the big issues, such as borders or principles like self-determination or security and recognition for all, be agreed before negotiations begin? To what extent can agreements on limited issues be reached as building blocks and confidence-building steps toward larger agreements before final issues are resolved? Will the parties negotiate directly with one another? Or will they work through or with a mediator? Which parties will negotiate?

Large differences remain among Americans, Arabs and Israelis on these key points. Careful diplomacy would be required to iron these out, at least to the point where serious negotiations could resume.

Turning to the substance of such negotiations, the Camp David Accords did not resolve the key issue of the Palestinians' right to self-determination. The concept was that there should be genuine autonomy for the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza and withdrawal of Israel's military occupation and its civilian administration, as an interim arrangement before the final status of those territories was to be negotiated with full Palestinian participation. But that approach faltered when Begin indicated, by word and preemptive action, that he sees only Palestinian autonomy under Israeli sovereignty as the long-term Israeli-Palestinian relationship, while moderate Palestinians would accept a transitional period and an open relationship with Israel and Jordan, but only when they were assured that they could exercise their right of self-determination-which in principle could be a choice for a separate Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, or conceivably for some form of federated association with Jordan.

It would of course be a major breakthrough if, in the course of stating their respective commitments to a negotiated peace, the two sides implied understanding on the shape of a possible solution. But the obstacles to such an understanding are formidable.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, leaders of the Palestinian people proposed a binational state in Palestine with rights guaranteed for Arabs and Jews. Since Israelis insist on a separate state, however, the Palestinians in the last half of the 1970s began to take the position that they are prepared to accept a state of their own in the West Bank and Gaza in land from which Israel had withdrawn under Security Council Resolution 242. The latter position has not been stated unambiguously, but there is little question that it remains the mainstream view of the Palestinian people as endorsed by the Palestinian National Congress. The conflict in Lebanon seems to have reinforced this view-while the eviction of the PLO apparatus from Lebanon may also have led many in the PLO, and in the Palestinian movement generally, to conclude that the objective must now be sought by peaceful political means.

The original option of a unitary binational state west of Jordan could now be renounced as part of a declared acceptance of Israel. But this would still leave what is presently Palestinian insistence on a separate state-a possibility rejected not only by the present Israeli government but by an overwhelming consensus of present Israeli opinion.

In short, it may be necessary-as at Camp David-that the two sides "agree to disagree" on the ultimate political structure of the West Bank and Gaza, and approach the problem-again as at Camp David-in two stages, looking to an interim period in which the situation could evolve so that the voice of Palestinians resident in the West Bank and Gaza would be clearly heard and they could participate in the second stage of negotiations, which would take up the final status of the territories.

An agreement which created genuine autonomy for a freely elected Palestinian self-governing authority as a transition device could not be dismissed lightly by the Arab world. The autonomy negotiations to date have achieved more than most realize, but they have yet to achieve these breakthroughs on key issues which would cause Arabs to question their current conviction that autonomy would only be a cover for long-term Israeli control of all territory west of the Jordan River.

The U.S. government has a choice between making a routine effort to achieve an agreement on autonomy and making a determined and sustained effort to achieve a real autonomy agreement that could launch the five-year (or other) transitional period in the West Bank and Gaza. A U.S. decision to help produce genuine autonomy would for the moment shift the focus of the autonomy talks from an Egyptian-Israeli negotiation to an Israeli-U.S. exchange. Such an exchange could be intense and difficult to sustain.

Moreover, it seems unlikely that the PLO or Arab governments will simply accept the Camp David framework (or an enlarged version) without some dialogue of their own with Israel or the United States on what the purposes of a negotiation would be. In Arab eyes, Camp David did not provide assurance that a transitional period would not allow Israel to complete its de facto annexation of the West Bank and Gaza. The U.S. strategy for an Arab-Israeli peace would not be complete if it did not now pursue an active dialogue with all Arab parties to the conflict, thus authoritatively establishing that they would negotiate peace with Israel. That position, to repeat, needs to be put forward publicly in a way that could force events as Sadat did when he went to Jerusalem.

Thus, it is apparent that the pursuit of a serious negotiating process will continue to have all the difficulties that have beset it for the past decade. The problem must in all probability be approached in stages, and with the hope that a base of trust and confidence can be created, and that over time the positions of both sides would evolve so as to permit the exercise of self-determination by the Palestinians and the creation of a political structure with full safeguards for the future security of Israel.


In trying to launch a negotiation of this sort, the United States would be moving on four tracks simultaneously. It would work to resolve the Lebanese problem in such a way as to restore Lebanese integrity. It would attempt to restore the grounds of common purpose in the U.S.-Israeli relationship. It would try to develop a clear expression of Palestinian and other Arab readiness to make peace with Israel. It would try to achieve an interim first step on the ground in the form of genuine autonomy for the one million Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza while consulting with representatives of the larger Palestinian movement.

Working on these four tracks is not a strategy to achieve a quick success. It is more like the strategy of a basketball team working the ball carefully back and forth across the court, forcing opponents to commit themselves, creating opportunities one at a time, and systematically building the score. It requires leadership, management, skill and grueling perseverance. Its objective is to begin changing the balance of forces, increasing the incentives to negotiate, and making the possibility of progress seem realistic.

In the garden of President Sadat's residence on the Nile just north of Cairo, I was talking with an Egyptian colleague during a break in one of the 1974 Kissinger shuttles. He was lamenting that the United States had not been decisively involved in the search for an Arab-Israeli peace between the 1967 and 1973 wars. "We're sure involved now," I replied. "Yes," he said, "but it took a war to get you here."

It is tragic when our nation, which aspires to leadership for peace, freedom, justice and human rights, cannot marshal the same energies and political courage to prevent war and to make peace that we seem to marshal after a war to put our shattered interests back together. It is dangerous in the wake of war if our nation has no larger vision of peace or strategy for leading toward peace. I know how hard it is to decide which way to move next, when there are so many uncertainties. I also know that drift underscores weakness and enlarges danger, while leadership and competence can increase strength and lead toward peace and security. War changes conditions, but peace follows only when leaders tirelessly pursue a strategy of building peace from those new conditions.

However the tragedy of Lebanon may rest on the consciences of responsible Americans, we have now had the 1982 Israeli-Palestinian War to "get us there." The questions in the wake of Israel's final withdrawal from the Sinai, Israel's accelerated program for dominating the West Bank and Gaza, and the Israeli-Palestinian War are whether and how an Israeli-Palestinian peace process can be generated and what the strategy of the United States and the quality of its leadership will be.

1 Yitzhak Shamir, "Israel's Role in a Changing Middle East," Foreign Affairs, Spring 1982, p. 791.



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  • Harold H. Saunders is Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs from 1978 to 1981, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the same office in 1974-75, and a member of the National Security Council staff, with responsibility for Middle East matters, from 1967 to 1974. He participated in the negotiations at Camp David and previously in the Kissinger shuttles. He is coauthor of The Path to Peace: Arab-Israeli Peace and the United States, and author of The Middle East Problem in the 1980s. Many of the insights in this article were acquired during visits to Egypt, Israel and Jordan in July 1982.
  • More By Harold H. Saunders