The Talks Resume

Article excerpt

THE bickering over time and place that preceded this week's resumption of Middle East peace talks in Washington was nothing new. Previous negotiations in 1973 and 1977 had similar preludes. For all the analysis of possible outcomes, these talks represent, after all, a step into the unknown.

Israel's refusal to come to Washington last Wednesday, in accord with the US invitation, was intended to show that it wouldn't be forced to resume talks at the bidding of a third party. The Arabs got some publicity mileage out of the Israeli stubbornness, but both sides recognize they have little to gain from such skirmishes. Daunting as the prospect may seem, the time has come to get down to cases.

Between Palestinians and Israelis, this means a discussion of autonomy. To Israel's government, that word denotes care-fully circumscribed self-rule within the context of continued Israeli control of the occupied territories. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir makes that clear with his repeated references to a biblical "land of Israel," which includes the West Bank. …