The purpose of recent American diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East is simply stated. It is to stop the fighting and bring the peace effort back to the point, now nearly three years ago, when Ambassador Gunnar Jarring was setting out on his mission to help bring about an agreed Arab-Israeli settlement on the basis of a unanimous U.N. resolution. It is a measure of the deterioration since that time that these modest proposals, the results of which are uncertain as these lines are written, have generated optimism by their initial success in breaking the fixed pattern of reliance on force alone. For they came at a time of gloom over the prospects for settlement and of alarm over military events which could bring major Soviet gains or grave risk of war. Participation of Soviet pilots and missile crews in military operations had already limited Israel's mastery of the skies over Egypt and might in time shift the balance of power which now favors Israel. Once that balance is upset, President Nixon has said, the United States "will do what is necessary" to restore it.
This is, many have said, a time for urgent American decision if we are to avoid bolder Soviet moves and a worse crisis later, or a desperate Israeli decision to launch a preventive war with incalculable consequences. In the background looms Israel's actual or potential atomic capability, not to be ignored even if it bears a "last resort" label. Precipitate action spurred by a sense of crisis may serve neither peace nor the national interest. But is the present initiative for Arab-Israeli negotiations enough? Weighing policies in the present atmosphere of mixed hope and alarm requires at the very least a perspective relating the past to the future.
Ever since the war of 1948 in Palestine there has been no peace between the Arab states and Israel, so it should be no surprise if peace cannot be found now. At no time have the Arab governments
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