The Prize in the Mideast

Article excerpt

YITZHAK RABIN and Yasser Arafat now have begun a third mortgage payment on their Nobel Prizes.

The first payment came when they began to bargain seriously about settling their 47-year-old hot and cold wars over land for Palestine and peace for Israel.

The second payment involved the return of Jericho near the Jordan River and Gaza on the Mediterranean to Palestinian administration.

The step they have just taken - a program for turning over to Mr. Arafat's control six Palestinian towns and about 91 percent of the villages on the West Bank - begins to create a momentum that could break one of the most difficult logjams in the world today. Mr. Rabin is reported to have told his Cabinet that it struck a "mighty blow to the delusion of a 'Greater Israel.' " If the momentum builds - a big if - it could do much more than that. On the global stage it could help reduce long-term threats to Europe's and Japan's oil supply. It could lessen the uneasy feeling that America is about to import terrorist attacks.

Just as important, it could begin to give leaders with a constructive vision of the future of the Mideast a chance to spell out that vision for their war-weary, embittered peoples.

Careful economists like the International Monetary Fund's No. 2, Stanley Fischer, have projected the development of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Greater Beirut into various high- and mid-tech exporting, banking, trade, tourism, and education centers. …